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Open Access Study protocol

Reducing disease burden and health inequalities arising from chronic disease among Indigenous children: an early childhood caries intervention

Jessica Merrick1*, Alwin Chong2, Eleanor Parker1, Kaye Roberts-Thomson1, Gary Misan3, John Spencer1, John Broughton4, Herenia Lawrence5 and Lisa Jamieson1

Author affiliations

1 Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health, University of Adelaide School of Dentistry, Adelaide, Australia

2 Menzies School of Health Research, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, Australia

3 University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia

4 Ngai Tahu Maori Health Research Unity, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

5 School of Dentistry, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2012, 12:323  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-323

Published: 2 May 2012



This study seeks to determine if implementing a culturally-appropriate early childhood caries (ECC) intervention reduces dental disease burden and oral health inequalities among Indigenous children living in South Australia, Australia.


This paper describes the study protocol for a randomised controlled trial conducted among Indigenous children living in South Australia with an anticipated sample of 400. The ECC intervention consists of four components: (1) provision of dental care; (2) fluoride varnish application to the teeth of children; (3) motivational interviewing and (4) anticipatory guidance. Participants are randomly assigned to two intervention groups, immediate (n = 200) or delayed (n = 200). Provision of dental care (1) occurs during pregnancy in the immediate intervention group or when children are 24-months in the delayed intervention group. Interventions (2), (3) and (4) occur when children are 6-, 12- and 18-months in the immediate intervention group or 24-, 30- and 36-months in the delayed intervention group. Hence, all participants receive the ECC intervention, though it is delayed 24 months for participants who are randomised to the control-delayed arm. In both groups, self-reported data will be collected at baseline (pregnancy) and when children are 24- and 36-months; and child clinical oral health status will be determined during standardised examinations conducted at 24- and 36-months by two calibrated dental professionals.


Expected outcomes will address whether exposure to a culturally-appropriate ECC intervention is effective in reducing dental disease burden and oral health inequalities among Indigenous children living in South Australia.