Indigenous oral health needs policy with teeth

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Indigenous oral health

The Australian Medical Association’s latest Report Card on Indigenous Health has found more government action is needed to help improve oral health among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Children and adults in these communities have dental disease at up to three times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians. Moreover, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are more likely to be hospitalised for dental problems.

AMA president Dr Tony Bartone said oral health was an important part of overall wellbeing, with poor oral health complicating or contributing to things like diabetes or heart disease.

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“The state of oral health among the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in Australia is unacceptable,” Dr Bartone said.

“It has a tremendous effect on quality of life and can stop children from attending school.”

The report recommends the government: 

  • ensure 90 per cent of Australians have access to fluoridated water;
  • boost the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders working in dentistry;
  • fund a national oral health campaign;
  • collect better data on oral health in Indigenous communities;
  • ensure more Indigenous Australians become dental professionals;
  • cut red tape around fluoride varnish programs;
  • introduce a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages;
  • Collect better data on the oral health of Indigenous Australians to better allow the government to monitor progress on dental programs.

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