Te Wai Tāmati takes to Tik Tok to eliminate tooth decay

By Whatitiri Te Wake

Desperate and dire is how dentist Te Wai Tāmati describes tooth decay in New Zealand today. Dentists are relying on more funding in this week's budget announcement to fix the problem.

Tāmati has resorted to taking matters into her own hands. She created a Tik Tok page to educate and empower Māori amassing over 44,000 followers.

“Ki te whakaako i ngā whānau, ki te whakaako ki te waku niho kia ora ai ngā whānau i roto i te oranga niho.”

“[It's} to teach whānau, to teach them how to look after their teeth to achieve overall dental health,” she said.

Dr Katie Ayers from the Dental Association specialises in paediatrics. She says the situation is the worst she has seen in her 25-year career.

“We're seeing the community oral health service struggling with over half of the children overdue for their check-ups. We're seeing whānau can't access dental care. We're seeing them presented to emergency departments where they're seen by a doctor who can provide relief.

"But that doesn't fix the problem,” she said.

Associate Health Minister Peeni Henare is aware of the issues and whilst there was no mention of money, it seems there is a plan.

“Kei te mahi ngātahi mātou me ngā tohunga ki roto i aua mahi ki te whakarite i tetahi mahere hou kia whakatika i enei take.”

“We’re working in collaboration with experts in the industry to develop a new plan to fix these issues,” he said.

"We're just desperately hoping that this will be the first thing they do to help us out and to help whānau,” said Dr Ayers.

As tooth decay is a socio-economic disease, dentists say the only real cure is an end to poverty.