Australian Dental Journal
School of Arts and Humanities
The disproportionate burden of oral disease in Aboriginal children and the issues in accessing mainstream dental services are well documented. Yet little is known about dental professionals’ perspectives in providing oral care for Aboriginal children. This paper presents findings from a study exploring such perspectives.
Semi-structured interviews were carried out in Western Australia following purposive sampling of non-Aboriginal dentists, dental clinic assistants (dental nurses) and oral health therapists/dental hygienists. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and analysed guided by grounded theory for key themes related to the topic.
Findings included a service delivery model sometimes unresponsive to Aboriginal families’ needs; dental professionals’ limited education and training to work with confidence and cultural sensitivity with Aboriginal patients and socioeconomic influences on Aboriginal children’s poor oral health considered outside dental professionals’ remit of care.
Findings suggest oral health policies and practices and dental professionals’ education and training need reviewing for how well such policies support dental professionals in an Aboriginal context. This includes engaging with Aboriginal stakeholders, working effectively with Aboriginal families, and developing shared understandings about what is needed to increase access to care and improve oral health outcomes for Aboriginal children.