Hamilton dentist raises concerns over link between poverty and ‘third-world dental problems’ in New Zealand

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A dentist from Hamilton has raised concerns over the link between poverty and ‘third-world’ dental issues in New Zealand.

Assil Russell, dentist and co-founder of dental charity, Revive a Smile, said that the situation is so bad in parts of the country that she has started a petition for subsidies to be made available to those who cannot afford to see a dentist. Ms Russell said that it’s not uncommon for her to come across patients who have been so desperate that they have attempted to repair or extract their own teeth, often enduring significant pain. Just recently, Revive a Smile provided treatment for a single father who tried to take his own teeth out using pliers. The man was left with pieces of enamel lodged in his gums, but he couldn’t afford to go to the dentist, so he drank alcohol and then drilled the rest of the tooth into the gum tissue. This is just one story that highlights the gravity of the problem, according to the Hamilton dentist.

Ms Russell was keen to point out that these aren’t extreme scenarios dentists come across once in a blue moon. Increasingly, people are resorting to DIY dentistry because they cannot see a viable alternative. DIY work invariably contributes to more complex issues, such as infections, which patients cannot afford to get treated, and the situation becomes even more alarming.

Revive a Smile has teamed up with Southern Cross Health Trust to reach out to patients on low incomes to enable them to access routine check-ups and free treatment. Since the charity launched in 2012, it has helped more than 10,000 people. Ms Russell is hoping that her petition for subsidised care will collect 10,000 signatures, and she plans to present it to parliament in the autumn.

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