The Baby Teeth Talk Study; follow-up at age 6 years

Chief Investigator: Professor Lisa Jamieson

Funding Amount: $75,000

Recipient: University of Adelaide


This application involves a study of Aboriginal children enrolled in a randomised controlled trial called the Baby Teeth Talk study. The current goal is to follow-up children & their families involved in the study to determine long-term effectiveness of the preventive health program on dental, nutritional, anthropometric, cognitive & psychosocial outcomes. Because ours is the only richly characterised birth cohort of South Australian Aboriginal children, our findings have potential to yield valuable insights into the health and development of one of Australia’s most vulnerable child populations.

Research Outcomes:

Researchers: Lisa Smithers, Joanne Hedges, Terry Dunbar, John Lynch

Research Completed: 2021

Research Findings: Australian Aboriginal children score worse on almost every indicator of general health and well-being relative to non-Aboriginal children. The literature suggests that many of the conditions experienced in Aboriginal childhood are antecedents to chronic disease in later life. There is scarce information about health and wellbeing trajectories of Aboriginal Australian children as they grow into adolescence and early adulthood; a crucial information gap for future health planning.

Key Outcomes: The prevalence of mothers who were pregnant with their first child at baseline was 38.5%. Rates of dental disease among Aboriginal children in South Australia were less among those exposed to the intervention earlier rather than later in childhood. The effect appeared to be sustained at age 5 years, although the rates of dental disease were still far higher than estimates reported in Australia’s National Child Oral Health Survey 2012-14. Rates of psychosocial stress among mothers pregnant with Aboriginal children were high compared with general Australian population estimates. Experiences of racism were high among mothers, with impacts on tooth brushing behaviours and experience of toothache. Compared with population estimates, levels of self-efficacy and self-rated oral health of study participants at baseline were low, with differences in the frame of reference regarding participants’ self-rated oral health and self-rated general health described. Smithers and colleagues reported that the proportion of total energy from discretionary foods (including sugars in discretionary foods) was far higher for study children at age 3 years than for non-Aboriginal Australian children. Haag and others described how breastfeeding >24 months was associated with higher dental caries prevalence at child age 3 years compared with children who were never breastfed. This is contrary to the many findings that support prolonged breastfeeding among Indigenous Australians for better child health outcomes. Santiago and colleagues demonstrated how social support was characterised among study participants,and the impact of personal control on self-reported health outcomes. The effectiveness of implementing a motivational interviewing approach to preventing poor oral health among Indigenous children and their families was discussed, with comparisons made with other studies involving motivational interviewing and the oral health of vulnerable children.

Research Papers:

1. Jamieson L, Smithers L, Hedges J, Parker E, Mills H, Kapellas K, Lawrence HP, Broughton JR, Ju X. Dental Disease Outcomes Following a 2-Year Oral Health Promotion Program for Australian Aboriginal Children and Their Families: A 2-Arm Parallel, Single-blind, Randomised Controlled Trial. EClinicalMedicine. 2018; 1:43-50. 

2. Jamieson LM, Smithers LG, Hedges J, Aldis J, Mills H, Kapellas K, Lawrence HP, Broughton JR, Ju X. Follow-up of an Intervention to Reduce Dental Caries in Indigenous Australian Children: A Secondary Analysis of a Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2: e190648.

3. Jamieson L, Smithers L, Hedges J, Mills H, Kapellas K, Ha D, Do L, Ju X. Follow-up of Intervention to Prevent Dental Caries Among Indigenous Children in Australia: A Secondary Analysis of a Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2:e1915611.

4. Santiago PHR, Roberts R, Smithers LG, Jamieson L. Stress beyond coping? A Rasch analysis of the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-14) in an Aboriginal population. PLoS One. 2019;14: e0216333.

5. Ben J, Jamieson LM, Priest N, Parker EJ, Roberts-Thomson KF, Lawrence HP, Broughton J, Paradies Y. Experience of racism and tooth brushing among pregnant Aboriginal Australians: exploring psychosocial mediators. Community Dent Health. 2014b; 31:145

6. Ben J, Paradies Y, Priest N, Parker EJ, Roberts-Thomson KF, Lawrence HP, Broughton J, Jamieson LM. Self-reported racism and experience of toothache among pregnant Aboriginal Australians: the role of perceived stress, sense of control, and social support. J Public Health Dent. 2014b; 74:301-9. 

7. Jamieson LM, Parker EJ, Roberts-Thomson KF, Lawrence HP, Broughton J. Self-efficacy and self-rated oral health among pregnant aboriginal Australian women. BMC Oral Health. 2014; 14:29. 

8. Chand R, Parker E, Jamieson L. Differences in, and Frames of Reference of, Indigenous Australians’ Self-rated General and Oral Health. J Health Care Poor Underserved. 2017; 28:1087-1103.

9. Smithers LG, Lynch J, Hedges J, Jamieson LM. Diet and anthropometry at 2 years of age following an oral health promotion programme for Australian Aboriginal children and their carers: a randomised controlled trial. Br J Nutr. 2017; 118:1061-1069.

10. Haag DG, Jamieson LM, Hedges J, Smithers LG. Is There an Association between Breastfeeding and Dental Caries among Three-Year-Old Australian Aboriginal Children? Nutrients. 2019;11.

11. Santiago PHR, Roberts R, Smithers LG, Jamieson L. Networks of support: psychometric properties of the Social Support Scale (SSS) in two Aboriginal samples.  Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. In Press.

12. Santiago PHR, Nielsen T, Roberts R, Smithers LG, Jamieson L. Sense of Personal Control: can it be assessed fairly across Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians? PloS One. In Press.

13. Jamieson LM, Garcia RI, Sohn W, Albino J.  Challenges and Solutions for Improved Oral Health: Examples from Motivational Interviewing Trials. JDR Clin Trans Res. 2020;5:107-108. 

Available at:

Related Publications:

Future Outcomes:

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