NZ dental care too expensive - NZ Medical Association

By Te Ao - Māori News

The New Zealand Medical Association is joining the call for a comprehensive and affordable dental service to be made available to all New Zealanders.   

“Dental decay remains the most prevalent chronic, yet irreversible, disease in New Zealand, and significant disparities exist in oral health in New Zealand.  While children have access to free dental care this is an issue for all age groups including older New Zealanders and cost is a major barrier," says Dr Kate Baddock, Chair of the NZMA.  “We know that Māori and Pasifika have worse oral health outcomes as well as those living in areas of higher socioeconomic deprivation- this is an equity issue that must be addressed.”

“We must also move to a prevention approach for oral health.  This includes taking bold action on the issue of high sugar diets, in particular sugary drinks, and fluoridation as well as encouraging all adults to visit the dentist for regular check-ups instead of waiting until they have a dental problem.”    

“In New Zealand we have long known the impact of poor oral health on the nation and as far back as 2009 there were calls to integrate oral health into funded primary care. This is a conversation that should not be delayed further.  It is a health priority, says Baddock.  

Te Ao Māori News contacted dentist Dr Scott Ariki Waghorn (Ngapuhi) who agreed that affordable dental care should be provided to adults in Aotearoa.

"As a dental practise owner, it's quite expensive for us to deliver dental care in New Zealand," says Waghorn, "There are a lot of costs associated with being a dentist, licence fees, registration fees, the amount of ACC and regulatory things that are needed to be done are huge."

"One of the major things that puts people off going to the dentist is high cost so we certainly need to look at that.  My practise offers interest-free payment plans.  As an example, let's say you've got to have some big fillings done, which costs, say $250, a lot of people don't have $250 but we ask them 'how much can you pay off?' and then they'll say 'well, I can do $20 a week', and so, my practise has a policy of, if the offer is fair then they can just pay off their treatment."

"There are a lot of New Zealanders who aren't on WINZ, who are working hard, who have full-time jobs but it's very expensive to live, particularly in Auckland and they just don't have any spare money.  So, certainly there is room for some subsidies or targeted subsidies around that as well."

And for those afraid of the dentist's chair, Waghorn is unequivocal about the value of dental care.

"The mouth is the gateway to health for your entire body.  I can look into someone's mouth and tell exactly how healthy and well they are.

Te Ao Māori News will have more on this story tonight.