Managing dental decay of young Aboriginal children in the Kimberley, Western Australia

Managing dental decay of young Aboriginal children in the Kimberley, Western Australia Conference Paper

15th National Rural Health Conference: Better together!

  • Author(s): Piggott, Susan, Carter, Susan, Arrow, Peter
  • Secondary Author(s): Coleman, Leanne
  • Published: 2019

Abstract: Background: Aboriginal children in the Kimberley/Pilbara region of Western Australia (WA) experience dental decay at more than 3 times the rate of non-Aboriginal children, the majority of which remains untreated. A simple alternative, Atraumatic Restorative Treatment (ART), approach to manage dental decay using principally hand instruments to prepare the cavity and without local anaesthesia in children has been shown to be successful. The approach reduced the need for specialist care, and was clinically successful, acceptable by children and parents, and cost-effective. This approach has implications for dental services delivery in rural and remote communities where access to dental care is poor. The aim of the study was to test the feasibility of the ART model of care in rural and remote communities of the Kimberley in WA. Methods: The study design was a pragmatic two-armed, delayed intervention, cluster RCT. Communities with the expected number of children (n=15) in the target age (0-6-year-old) were invited to participate. Participating communities were randomised into the early intervention (test) or delayed intervention (control) arm of the study. Participating parents completed a questionnaire and the children provided with a baseline dental health assessment. Early intervention children were offered dental treatment. Delayed intervention children were advised to seek care through the standard care options available to the community and will be offered dental treatment as part of the study at the 12-month follow-up. The primary outcome was the number of children provided with the needed dental treatment and/or referred for specialist dental care. Results: Twenty-six communities were selected and the majority of communities (n=25) have agreed to participate. Wide ranging community consultation and presentation of the study proposal was undertaken which included face-to-face meetings with the CEOs of the Aboriginal Controlled Health Organisations in the Kimberley as well as Chief Executive Officers (CEO) of the selected communities and Chairpersons of the community councils. An Aboriginal study reference group was formed with representation from the local Aboriginal Health Organisations. As at the end of June 2018 recruitment has occurred in 12 communities (n=150) with participation ranging from 6-24 children. Challenges: Consultations with the community representatives and the CEOs and the community councils was well-received and the study proposal was supported, however, engagement at the individual level remains challenging. High mobility of the families also presented challenges in the provision of treatment and for follow-up.

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Suggested Citation
Piggott, Susan, Carter, Susan, Arrow, Peter, 2019, Managing dental decay of young Aboriginal children in the Kimberley, Western Australia, Conference Paper, viewed 02 December 2023,

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