The role of the oral microbiota in chronic non-communicable disease and its relevance to the Indigenous health gap in Australia

Matilda Handsley-Davis, Lisa Jamieson, Kostas Kapellas, Joanne Hedges, Laura S. Weyrich

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders (hereafter respectfully referred to as Indigenous Australians) experience disproportionately poor health and low life expectancy compared to non-Indigenous Australians. Poor oral health is a critical, but understudied, contributor to this health gap. A considerable body of evidence links poor oral health to increased risks of other chronic non-communicable conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, and poor emotional wellbeing. Main: The oral microbiota is indisputably associated with several oral diseases that disproportionately affect Indigenous Australians. Furthermore, a growing literature suggests direct and indirect links between the oral microbiota and systemic chronic non-communicable diseases that underpin much of the Indigenous health gap in Australia. Recent research indicates that oral microbial communities are shaped by a combination of cultural and lifestyle factors and are inherited from caregivers to children. Systematic differences in oral microbiota diversity and composition have been identified between Indigenous and non-Indigenous individuals in Australia and elsewhere, suggesting that microbiota-related diseases may be distinct in Indigenous Australians. Conclusion: Oral microbiota research involving Indigenous Australians is a promising new area that could benefit Indigenous communities in numerous ways. These potential benefits include: (1) ensuring equity and access for Indigenous Australians in microbiota-related therapies; (2) opportunities for knowledge-sharing and collaborative research between scientists and Indigenous communities; and (3) using knowledge about the oral microbiota and chronic disease to help close the gaps in Indigenous oral and systemic health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number327
JournalBMC Oral Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Dentistry


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