• Indigenous;
  • epidemiology;
  • child health;
  • data linkage;
  • disability


Background:  The aim of this study was to compare dental hospital admissions in a total state birth population of Indigenous and non-Indigenous children aged under five years in Western Australia.

Methods:  Midwives’ notification data were linked to databases of deaths, admissions, birth defects and intellectual disability. Births during 1980–1995 were followed until five years of age (n = 383 665). Dental admissions were classified by ICD-9 principal diagnosis categories.

Results:  There were 738 dental admissions for 665 children aged up to five years of Indigenous mothers (n = 20 921). Indigenous children comprised 6.3% of all children having a dental admission in this age group; 3.2% of children with Indigenous mothers had a dental admission compared with 2.7% of non-Indigenous children. Overall, 8.7% (n = 58) of Indigenous children with a dental admission had a birth defect and 5.5% (n = 23) had an intellectual disability (compared to 8.8% and 3.2%). Indigenous children were four times more likely to be diagnosed with oral soft tissue diseases than non-Indigenous children, and less likely to be categorized as having diseases of the dental hard tissues. Indigenous children were more likely to have a longer dental admission.

Conclusions:  These analyses provide important findings regarding hospital admissions for Indigenous children. Admissions for disorders of the soft tissues are more common in Indigenous children.