Impact of oral health on Australian urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families: A qualitative study

Kaley Butten, Newell W. Johnson, Kerry K. Hall, Maree Toombs, Neil King, Kerry Ann F. O'Grady

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Background: The oral health of a child not only impacts the physical well-being of the child, but can have quality of life implications for parents and families as they endeavour to provide care and support their child's oral health needs. Within Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are thought to experience a disproportionate burden of poor oral heath compared to non-Indigenous children. Despite the prevalence of oral health challenges, there are limited qualitative studies investigating the oral health experiences of families. The objective of the study was to explore 'from the perspective of urban, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents and carers' the impact child oral health has on families. Methods: Yarning circles and face-to-face interviews were used to document the experiences of (N = 20) parents of urban, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Participants were recruited from an Aboriginal-owned and operated primary health clinic in northern Brisbane, Australia and through word of mouth. Information collected was transcribed and analysed thematically. Codes and themes were confirmed by the researcher and two participants. Results: The findings indicate that oral health is an important issue for urban Indigenous families and maintaining oral health to a desired standard is having emotional, physical and financial impacts. Themes identified were financial concerns, worry about the future and juggling multiple priorities, all of which were inter-related and cyclical. Conclusions: Families in this study have demonstrated that with the current policy arrangements, oral health is impacting their quality of life, contributing to stress, financial challenges and at times affecting their physical health. To address these challenges, oral health education and promotion needs a multidisciplinary approach that reaches families before children are school-aged.

Original languageEnglish
Article number34
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal for Equity in Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 Feb 2019
Externally publishedYes


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