Young Aboriginal adults have 2-11 times higher adverse clinical oral health outcomes than young Australian adults generally, according to research published in the Medical Journal of Australia.
Dr Lisa Jamieson, Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health at the University of Adelaide, and co-authors compared clinical oral health outcomes of a birth cohort of young Aboriginal adults in the Aboriginal Birth Cohort (ABC) study with those of their age-matched, nationally representative counterparts in the National Survey of Adult Oral Health (NSAOH).
They found that the mean number of decayed teeth was eight times higher in ABC study participants than NSAOH participants, while the prevalence of untreated decayed teeth was 3.1 times higher.
The study also showed that ABC study participants experienced 10.8 times the prevalence of moderate or severe periodontal disease of NSAOH participants, and 1.9, 4.1 and 4.5 times the prevalence of calculus, plaque and gingivitis, respectively.
"Of particular concern is the high rate of untreated dental decay and periodontal disease in young Aboriginal adults, with links between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, diabetes and obesity," Dr Jamieson said.
"Lifestyle diseases such as these are the most common cause of premature adult mortality among Indigenous Australian populations.
"Although it is difficult to ascertain the role that periodontal disease might play in the development of chronic disease among Australia's Indigenous population, with half the Indigenous population currently aged under 21 years, this high prevalence of periodontal disease may contribute to a heavy burden of chronic disease in the future."
Dr Jamieson said that given the amenability of many dental diseases to prevention strategies, reducing the disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous clinical oral health outcomes should be achievable.
"Our findings emphasise that any program that includes prevention of chronic oral diseases among Indigenous Australians should start at a young age and continue throughout life," she said.
The Medical Journal of Australia is a publication of the Australian Medical Association.