Improving Oral Health in Aboriginal Children

Improving Oral Health in Aboriginal Children

A universal kindergarten dental group visiting program in the Sunraysia Region has a big impact on reaching local Aboriginal children.

We all know having healthy teeth is important, and it is really important for children. The local data tells us that preschool children in Sunraysia Region have more decayed teeth than the average Victorian child, and the figures are even worse for local Aboriginal children.

The Sunraysia Community Health Service (SCHS) Dental Team, Healthy Together Mildura and local kindergarten and day care centres worked together with the Smiles4Miles program to get more children to the dentist. The team had a particular focus on getting more Aboriginal children engaged in the public dental program. They utilised a universal approach that is focussed on getting whole kindergarten groups to visit the service, rather than singling out Aboriginal children. In addition, they sought to engage Aboriginal children and families through having an Aboriginal staff member (Aboriginal Population Health Recruit) lead and deliver the program. They also enlisted the help of the Department of Education and Training Koorie Education and Support Officer, who attended some of the sessions and assisted with promoting the importance of follow-up dental checks to local Aboriginal families whose children had evidence of decay.

Kindergarten and Day care groups came to SCHS to learn about healthy food and drinks for teeth and how to brush teeth through fun activities like puppet making and storytelling. The children even had a visit from the Tooth Fairy! Then each child had a ride in the dentist chair and a quick mouth check. Staff let parents know if their child needed to come back for treatment.

In 2016/17 SCHS had:

  • 21 Kindergarten / Day Care groups visit
  • A total of 572 children have a mouth check;
  • Of the children who had a mouth check 72 were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander;
  • A total of 86 children who needed to come back for treatment;
  • Of the children who needed to come back for treatment, 18 were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

SCHS advise other organisations to think about a targeted universal approach to engaging Aboriginal children in oral health promotion activities. Having an Aboriginal staff member deliver a universal program can help Aboriginal children and families feel comfortable in a mainstream service.

Check out the website for further information on what other health promoting activities are underway in the Sunraysia Region

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