Success in improving child dental health

Targetted dental programs for kids in western NSW and the APY lands have improved the decay rates for school children.

The Maari Ma program in NSW has improved the incidence of permanent tooth decay in 12 year olds from a rate of 40% kids caries free (in 2007) to 71% caries free (in 2011).  In 2007 the NSW state average for caries free 12 year olds was 65%.

In 2014 the rate of caries free permanent teeth in 12 year olds on the APY lands, serviced by Nganampa Health, was 68%.  The corresponding State (South Australian) figures for caries free rates in 12 year olds were 60% statewide, and 46.8% in remote/very remote communities.

In both locations the caries recordings (dmft) in primary teeth of 5-6 year olds are higher than State averages, yet the percentages of 12 year olds who are caries free are greater than State averages.  The 5-6 year olds generally have not accessed dental care before coming to school.

We believe the targetted and consistent programs have a positive impact on the kids.  The 12 year old health outcome data show that once a child in these communities starts receiving dental treatment, the program strategies are making measureable improvements and health gains.

The school dental programs of Maari Ma and Nganampa are based on:

  • regular (annual) dental screening and risk assessment
  • targetting fissure protection and sealing, prioritising the preservation of permanent teeth
  • early detection and management of dental disease; coordination with child health programs
  • regular Fluoride varnish applications
  • atraumatic and minimal intervention approaches: caries management in primary teeth, with the use of AgF and GIC
  • avoiding the use of “sharp” instruments as much as possible
  • working closely with the schools and health staff, families
  • combined with school oral health instruction, toothbrushing programs and nutrition programs.

The kids now have positive experiences in the dental program – jumping on the dental chair and demanding their “banana paint” (Fluoride varnish) – as well as better dental health.  Friends and winners all round!!

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