Early Childhood Caries Intervention in Aboriginal Australian Children: A Cross-in Randomized Trial

Publication Name

JDR Clinical and Translational Research


Introduction: Early childhood caries (ECC) is the strongest predictor of dental caries in adulthood. Indigenous children have higher levels of ECC compared with non-Indigenous children. The study aimed to estimate the efficacy of an ECC intervention among Aboriginal Australian children. Methods: Baby Teeth Talk was an outcome assessor-blinded, closed-cohort cross-in randomized controlled trial conducted in South Australia, Australia. We randomly allocated 448 women pregnant with an Aboriginal child to either an immediate (II) or delayed (DI) intervention group between January 2011 and May 2012. The immediate intervention comprised (1) provision of dental care to mothers during pregnancy; (2) application of fluoride varnish to teeth of children at ages 6, 12; and 18 mo; (3) motivational interviewing delivered in conjunction; and (4) anticipatory guidance. Mothers/children in the DI group received the same intervention commencing when the child was 24 mo of age. The outcomes were assessed by the number of decayed, missing, and filled teeth (dmft) in children aged 24, 36, and 60 mo. Regression-based approaches with generalized linear mixed effect (log-Poisson) model characterized the mean dmft to estimate risk ratios (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs). Results: A total of 223 participants were randomly allocated to the II group and 225 to the DI group. Three hundred sixty-five children (178 II, 187 DI) received at least 1 dental clinical examination at 24, 36, and 60 mo of follow-up. The mean dmft was lower in the II group (0.48, 1.32, and 2.06) than in the DI group (0.82, 1.90, and 3.29) at each time point, respectively. The direct ECC intervention effect was to prevent/decrease dental decay experience (dmft) occurrence by 84% (RR = 1.84, 95% CI: 1.20–2.48) after adjusting for all covariates. Conclusions: Our analysis indicated that the time-varied ECC intervention had immediate and longer-term effects on the prevention of ECC among Indigenous Australian children. Knowledge Transfer Statement: The study aimed to estimate the efficacy of an early childhood caries (ECC) intervention among Aboriginal Australian children. The findings indicated that the culturally appropriate ECC intervention is effective for the preventive of ECC and can be used by clinicians, educators, and policy makers when planning an ECC intervention, so as to prevent and reduce ECC and meet identified oral health needs across the Australian population, which is important for preventive dental care.

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Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

National Health and Medical Research Council



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