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|‘There’s a wall there—and that wall is higher from our side’||270.52 KB|
Indigenous Australians experience high levels of untreated dental disease compared to non-Indigenous Australians. They have higher levels of untreated dental caries (tooth decay) and periodontal (gum) disease, and are less likely to have received preventive dental care. They tend towards unfavorable dental visiting patterns, broadly associated with accessibility, cost, and a lack of cultural awareness by some service providers. The aim of this study is to obtain a greater understanding of people’s perceptions, experiences of oral health, and the barriers and enablers that prevent Indigenous Australians from seeking timely and preventive dental care, using qualitative methodology.
A qualitative study design was implemented, using face-to-face interviews conducted December 2019 to February 2020. Participants were 20 Indigenous Australians (10 women and 10 men) representing six South Australian Indigenous groups; Ngarrindjeri, Narungga, Kaurna, Ngadjuri, Wiramu, and Adnyamathanha. Age range was middle-aged to elderly.
The findings indicate that many of the barriers to Indigenous people accessing timely and appropriate dental care may be easily remedied. Cultural competency training enables barriers to timely access and provision of dental care to Indigenous Australians to be addressed. The findings provide important context to better enable health providers and policy makers to put in place appropriate measures to improve Indigenous people’s oral health, and the Indigenous oral health workforce in Australia.
Barriers preventing timely access to dental services for Indigenous Australians include fear of dentists; confusion regarding availability of dental services; difficulties making dental appointments; waiting times; attitudes and empathy of dental health service staff; cultural friendliness of dental health service space; availability of public transport and parking costs; and ease of access to dental clinic. Many of the barriers to Indigenous people accessing timely and appropriate dental care may be easily remedied. The findings provide important context to better enable health providers and policy makers to put in place appropriate measures to improve Indigenous people’s oral health. Indigenous peoples have been substantially impacted by racism and settler colonialism, meaning it is crucial that learning spaces are created in dental and other health programs throughout Australia to enable dialogue so that these insights can be expanded upon and addressed.