Enablers and barriers to accessing paediatric dental services in Papua New Guinea: A pilot study

Contact: Dr Kelly Jones - kelly.jones@aut.ac.nz

Good oral health in childhood via access to dental care can help prevent halitosis, dental caries and periodontal disease, and increases the likelihood of keeping teeth into old age. In addition to healthy teeth and gums, children’s oral health is an integral part of general health and is important for life and wellbeing. Good oral health supports vital human functions (i.e. speaking, smiling, socialising, and eating) with a completely functional mouth critical for all the phases of natural life. Importantly, many of the most common oral diseases such as periodontal disease and dental caries are preventable.

Some research on the oral health status of children was conducted in the early 1980s and 1990s. While there are no more recent studies of the oral health status in Papua New Guinea (PNG), there are anecdotal reports that decay of the tooth in childhood and periodontal disease are leading causes of tooth loss in PNG. Furthermore, there has been no prior research specifically examining the factors that enable and serve as barriers to accessing pediatric dental services in PNG.

Using a cross sectional design, this mixed methods pilot study aims to determine preliminary enablers and barriers to accessing dental services for children aged 0-6 years in PNG in an effort to better support children’s oral health. Thirty parents of children aged 0-6 years in PNG, including those living in urban (Popondetta, Oro Province) and rural (a village in Oro Province) areas will be invited to complete an in-person semi-structured survey about access to pediatric dental services.  We will also find out whether parents have any suggestions for improving service access and eliminating access barriers.

This study will identify preliminary enablers and barriers to service access, along with suggestions for service access improvements to help reveal opportunities for further research to optimise treatment and maximise children’s long term oral health outcomes.


  • Lead: Elsie Gahano (AUT University)

Co-investigators include:

  • Dr Kelly Jones (AUT University)
  • Dr Manorika  Ratnaweera (AUT University)

Funded in part by:

  • New Zealand Scholarships