The 2019 Report Card on Indigenous Health focusses on the oral health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia.
Good oral health is fundamental to our overall health and wellbeing. It allows us to eat and speak without pain, discomfort or embarrassment.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and adults have much higher rates of dental disease that their non-Indigenous counterparts across Australia, which can largely be attributed to the social determinants of health. Indigenous Australians are also less likely to receive the dental care that they need.
Opportunities exist for political leaders at all levels of government to implement solutions to improve the oral health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia. This includes increasing fluoridation of Australia’s water supplies, enhancing oral health promotion, growing the Indigenous dental workforce and strengthening data collection to monitor and evaluate the oral health status and the performance of oral health care services.
Fundamentally, governments must ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have access to affordable, culturally appropriate oral health care programs. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people rely on public oral health services, where they exist. However, the availability of these services depends on government funding, which is often short-term. Consequently, a significant proportion of the Indigenous population live without regular dental care, which has adverse health outcomes.
Oral health care is an important part of primary health care. We urge governments to note the recommendations contained in this Report Card and put them into action to improve the oral health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia.