Abstract: Background: A survey of dental caries experience in children was undertaken in five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the Northern Peninsula Area of Queensland prior to the introduction of water fluoridation. Methods: Data were obtained from screening dental examinations conducted by the Australian Army as part of a community assistance programme between May and September 2004 from 486 children aged 4?15 years. The clinical examinations were performed in a dental van using a dental chair, light, mirror and probe by a single calibrated examiner. Results: Caries experience was high with a mean 6-year-old dmft of 6.37 and a mean 12-year-old DMFT of 3.50. The 6-year-old dmft Significant Caries Index (SiC) for the third of the population with the highest caries experience was 11.65 and the 12-year-old DMFT SiC was 7.08. Only 15.3 per cent of 6-year-old children had dmft=0 and 28.9 per cent of 12-year-old children had DMFT=0. Conclusions: Dental caries was a significant problem for these remote communities. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from the Northern Peninsula Area of Queensland had more than four times the caries experience of Australian children for both 6-year-old dmft and 12-year-old DMFT.