Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Caries and periodontal disease in Indigenous adults in Australia: a case of limited and non-contemporary data

Andrea M. de Silva A B , Jacqueline M. Martin-Kerry C F , Katherine McKee D and Deborah Cole E

A Institute for Safety, Compensation & Recovery Research, 222 Exhibition Street, Melbourne, Vic. 3000, Australia.

B Melbourne Dental School, The University of Melbourne, 720 Swanston Street, Carlton, Vic. 3053, Australia. Email: andreams@unimelb.edu.au

C Department of Health Sciences, University of York, Heslington, York, YO10 5DD, UK.

D Centre for Applied Oral Health Research, Dental Health Services Victoria, 720 Swanston Street, Carlton, Vic. 3053, Australia. Email: kmckee@deakin.edu.au

E Dental Health Services Victoria, 720 Swanston Street, Carlton, Vic. 3053, Australia. Email: deborah.cole@dhsv.org.au

F Corresponding author. Email: jackie.martin-kerry@york.ac.uk

Australian Health Review - http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AH15229
Submitted: 9 December 2015  Accepted: 26 June 2016   Published online: 29 August 2016

Abstract

Objective The aim of the present study was to identify all evidence about the prevalence and severity of clinically measured caries and periodontal disease in Indigenous adults in Australia published in peer-reviewed journals and to summarise trends over time. In addition, we examined whether the studies investigated associations between putative risk factors and levels of caries and periodontal disease.

Methods PubMed was searched in September 2014, with no date limitations, for published peer-reviewed articles reporting the prevalence rates and/or severity of caries and periodontal disease in Indigenous adults living in Australia. Articles were excluded if measurement was not based on clinical assessment and if oral disease was reported only in a specific or targeted sample, and not the general population.

Results The search identified 18 papers (reporting on 10 primary studies) that met the inclusion criteria. The studies published clinical data about dental caries and/or periodontal disease in Australian Indigenous adults. The studies reported on oral health for Indigenous adults living in rural (40%), urban (10%) and both urban and rural (50%) locations. Included studies showed that virtually all Indigenous adults living in rural locations had periodontal disease. The data also showed caries prevalence ranged from 46% to 93%. Although 10 studies were identified, the peer-reviewed literature was extremely limited and no published studies were identified that provided statistics for a significant proportion of Australia (Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland or the Australian Capital Territory). There were also inconsistencies in how the data were reported between studies, making comparisons difficult.

Conclusions This review highlights a lack of robust and contemporary data to inform the development of policies and programs to address the disparities in oral health in Indigenous populations living in many parts of Australia.

What is known about the topic? Many studies report that Indigenous people in Australia have poorer general health compared with non-Indigenous people.

What does this paper add? This paper documents the available caries and periodontal disease prevalence and experience for Indigenous adults in Australia published in peer-reviewed journals. It demonstrates significant limitations in the data, including no data in several large Australian jurisdictions, inconsistency with reporting methods and most data available being for Indigenous adults living in rural locations. Therefore, the oral health data available in the peer-reviewed literature do not reflect the situation of all Indigenous people living in Australia.

What are the implications for practitioners? It is important for oral health practitioners to have access to current and relevant statistics on the oral health of Indigenous Australians. However, we have highlighted significant evidence gaps for this population group within the peer-reviewed literature and identified the limitations of the available data upon which decisions are currently being made. This paper also identifies ways to capture and report oral health data in the future to enable more meaningful comparisons and relevance for use in policy development.

Additional keywords: Aboriginal, decay, oral health, periodontitis, prevalence.


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