High rate of Māori children are hospitalised with dental disease

By Numia Ponika-Rangi

More pre-schoolers are being hospitalised with dental disease than any other age group, with Māori and Pacific children making up the majority.

The figures have alarmed health experts who say better access to dental care, greater access to fluoridated water, better diets and cleaning regimes would all contribute to improved dental health in early childhood.

According to a review by the Ministry of Health, Māori and Pacific children under five tend to have poorer oral health and a higher rate of hospitalisation. Dental health experts and Māori groups say the statistics are a real concern.

Papatuanuku Nāhi says, “It is concerning and one of the main contributing factors is fizzy drinks.”

Dentist Scott Waghorn says, “What's concerning is that despite the dental industry is pretty good at catching kids now, we're still getting lots of kids who have terrible teeth and very rotten teeth, causing lots of problems.”

In NZ, access to basic dental care is readily available and provided free to children under the age of 18, however many families aren't taking advantage for various reasons.

“Māori definitely dominate the stats. I think it's to do with just traditionally we're a bit whakamā about our teeth and the health of our mouth,” says Scott Waghorn.

There are solutions, such as teaching children at a very early age the proper way to care for their teeth.

“You know brushing the teeth and having a regular dental check-up,” says Scott Waghorn.