Tooth decay levels are three times higher among indigenous children, with consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and irregular brushing of teeth forming major factors behind the global dental condition, according to latest Australian research.
The findings, which also showed that low household income and living in an area with non-fluoridated water offered significant dental risks to non-indigenous youngsters, suggested that cutting the intake of sugary drinks could help everyone but indigenous children required “additional focus on oral hygiene”, the University of Adelaide said in a statement on Saturday.
The researchers analyzed data from Australia’s national child oral health study and included nationally representative samples of both indigenous and non-indigenous children aged 5 to 14 years.
Indigenous children in Australia “experience profoundly greater inequalities on almost every indicator of health and well-being” compared with their non-indigenous peers, including “higher prevalence of nutrition-associated stunting” and “nonoptimal blood pressure growth outcomes”, with the inequalities extending to oral health, according to the researchers. Their findings were published in the JAMA Network Open medical journal.
Dental caries is a global public health problem and the condition forms the most widespread non-communicable disease, according to the World Health Organization.
“The association of modifiable risk factors with area-based inequalities in untreated dental caries among indigenous and non-indigenous Australian children differed substantially. Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages was associated with dental caries for both groups, and irregular tooth brushing was also significantly associated with dental caries for indigenous children,” according to the latest study.
“Efforts by the dental profession – as well as policymakers and health professionals more generally – are required at both national and international levels to reduce barriers to access to and the availability of preventive and rehabilitative oral health services for indigenous groups … reducing oral health inequalities among and between indigenous groups needs to be a public health priority at a global level,” the researchers said.