Dental Tribune Asia Pacific

Lower socio-economic groups in New Zealand cannot afford urgently needed dental procedures

By Dental Tribune International
April 19, 2019

AUCKLAND, New Zealand: Socially disadvantaged adults in New Zealand cannot afford dental treatments, even if in great pain, resulting in dangerous do-it-yourself procedures. Consequently, various representatives of the health sector are calling for the government to take action.

In a recent statement, the New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA) called for better government funding to enable low-income adults to access dental care. Even though New Zealand adults have experienced great improvements in oral health since the 1980s, still many patients only visit a dentist when a dental problem occurs, and in particular, low-income adults see the cost as a significant barrier.

“Some truly cannot afford care, and for these groups we must do better, and that involves working with government on a better deal,” said Dr Bill O’Connor, President of the NZDA.

Mike Naera, health advocate in Rotorua, commented: “Maori are over-represented in the lower socio-economic demographic and they sacrifice everything so they can live day-to-day. A lot of [them] can’t afford dental work so their options are to remain in pain or extract their teeth themselves. The consequences of paying for dental care would be sacrificing food on the table. The government should be looking for more ways to better subsidise dental work so our families don’t have to keep suffering.”

According to Dr Sherry Sembhy, from Rotorua Dentists, self-dentistry is dangerous, as people do not know what they are doing, do not understand the anatomy of their teeth and use unsterile tools, which make the condition only worse. Infections, abscesses, swelling and broken teeth and jaws were some of the possible outcomes of the home procedures which Sembhy said could end up costing even more in repairs.

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