Oral health differences between Pacific islands

Tongan children in New Zealand are more than twice as likely as Samoan kiddies to have their teeth filled or pulled out, a new survey shows.

The finding is perhaps not surprising because the Tongans brush their teeth less often than the Samoans and Cook Island Maori.

They are also less likely to use children's toothpaste than other Pacific Islanders.

Auckland's AUT University researchers also found Tongan children are more likely to have a snack or drink, other than water, before going to bed.

The researchers say the reasons for significant differences between Pacific Island groups in children's oral health practices are unclear.
Professor Janis Paterson, the study's co-director, said in a statement today, "Now we need to explore the underlying reasons for these differences."

"The resulting information will be useful for developing culturally-specific health promotion programmes to increase oral health awareness and practices," she said.

The findings are part of AUT's Pacific Islands Families (PIF) study which has followed 1398 children and their families for the past six years.

Prof Paterson added the study was already resulting in improved immunisation services for Pacific children, greater emphasis and education on diabetes, obesity prevention and healthy eating patterns.


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