Inequalities in the utilisation of the Child Dental Benefits Schedule between Aboriginal* and non-Aboriginal children

Neil Orr*, Kylie Gwynne, Woosung Sohn, John Skinner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Objectives The Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS) is an Australian Government initiative providing basic dental care to children from low-income households. We sought to investigate levels of utilisation of the CDBS among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children to determine whether there is equal access to dental services provided through the schedule. Methods CDBS data were obtained for four financial (July-June) years (from 2013-14 to 2016-17). The data captured all claims made during this period. The data included estimates of usage by Aboriginal status, age group and Dental Benefits groups (administrative categories of related dental procedures). Results The utilisation of CDBS services was lower for Aboriginal children. However, in 2013-14, although the odds of using the schedule were higher for non-Aboriginal children (odds ratio (OR) 0.89; P <0.0001) this was reversed in 2015-16 and 2016-17 (OR 1.11 and 1.21 respectively; P <0.0001 in both years). The odds of Aboriginal children using preventive services was below that of non-Aboriginal children in 2013-14 (OR 0.82), 2014-15 (OR 0.76), 2015-16 (OR 0.83) and 2016-17 (OR 0.90; P <0.0001) in all years. Conclusions The data are encouraging with regard to equity because they show that for services overall, Australian Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children have similar levels of utilisation. However, lower levels of the use of preventive services may indicate future inequalities in oral health among Aboriginal children. What is known about the topic? The CDBS is an Australian Government initiative aimed at improving access to dental care for children from low-income households, including for Aboriginal people. By facilitating greater access to dental care, the schedule has the potential to help address inequalities in oral health for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children. What does this paper add? There are no analyses available comparing the utilisation of the CDBS by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children. This study compared levels of utilisation of the schedule overall and specifically for preventive services. What are the implications for practitioners? Greater efforts should be made to address inequalities in the utilisation of the CDBS between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children. Although there are some hopeful signs, inequalities remain that may affect the oral health of Aboriginal children. There is also potential to encourage utilisation of the CDBS for greater provision of preventive services, including targeted population oral health initiatives.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
JournalAustralian Health Review
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Feb 2021

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