- Associate Professor David Brennan, Deputy Director, Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health, School of Dentistry, University of Adelaide
- Dr Leonard Crocombe, Research Fellow, Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health, Senior Research Fellow, University of Tasmania, Adjunct Senior Lecturer, University of Western Australia, Research Associate, Menzies Research Institute Tasmania
- Professor Kaye Roberts-Thomson, Director Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health, School of Dentistry, University of Adelaide
- Associate Professor Anthony Barnett, Director, University Department of Rural Health, University of Tasmania
- Professor Linda Slack-Smith, Professor of Oral Epidemiology, School of Dentistry, University of Western Australia Telethon Institute for Child Health Research
- Associate Professor Erica Bell, Deputy Director, University Department of Rural Health, University of Tasmania
The impact of oral disease on people’s everyday lives is subtle and pervasive. The prevalence and recurrence of these impacts constitutes a silent epidemic, as acknowledged in the National Oral Health Plan 2004-2013. Over 90% of Australians born before 1970 have experienced tooth decay and a quarter of adults have untreated coronal decay. Additionally, 6.7% of Australian adults have untreated decay on tooth rot surfaces and one in five have moderate or severe gum disease. Expenditure on dental health is large: $7.69 billion in 2009-2010, representing 7.5% of total health funding. The ravages of oral disease are felt more by certain demographics than others. People who miss out on gaining access to primary oral health care include frail and older people, rural residents, Indigenous Australians, and physically and intellectually disabled Australians.
This Centre of Research Excellence will conduct a program of research to improve primary oral health care for disadvantaged Australians, comprising four major themes.
1. Successful aging and oral health
Problems of tooth wear, tooth fracture, root caries and pulpal necrosis are associated with the aging population. The Centre will undertake two projects involving: assessing the long-term success rate of screening questions used by physicians and nurses linked to priority dental care, and investigating better options for oral care in residential aged care.
2. Rural oral health
Non-capital-city residents are more likely to suffer complete tooth less, have less than 21 teeth, wear dentures, have missing, have a higher proportion of untreated coronal dental caries, have great dental caries experience than capital city residents, and are more to avoid certain foods due to dental problems. The Centre will conduct research projects to investigate the attitudes, barriers and enablers for Australian dental practitioners toward living and working in rural areas, demonstrate that more collaborative, interprofessional systems of care can have a positive impact on oral health, and identify gaps in policy approaches to oral health in rural and remote areas.
3. Indigenous oral health
Compared to the overall Australian population, Indigenous children generally have more than twice the caries experience and a greater proportion of untreated caries, while adults have more missing teeth and worse periodontal health. Research into the oral health of Indigenous Australians was listed as a priority area in the National Oral Health Plan. This Centre will undertake two research projects to discover why Aboriginal adults who are referred for priority dental care do not take up or complete a course of dental care, and to investigate the perceptions and beliefs of Aboriginal adults regarding oral health care.
4. The oral health of people with physical and intellectual disabilities
People with special needs, such as those with physical and intellectual disabilities, experience substantially higher levels of oral disease, with considerably less access to treatment. This project will consult stakeholders and develop and test an intervention model for carers of adults with disabilities.