New Zealand dentists call for a focus on preventative care for the country’s poor

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Dentists in New Zealand are calling for more focus on preventative care for the poor in a bid to reduce spending on emergency treatment and prevent more cases of severe decay and dental infections.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Social Development, the department of Work and Income has dished out more than $140 million in urgent dental grants over the past 6 years. Dentists believe that money could be better spent in improving dental services for those living in deprived areas. Urgent dental care is paid for by those aged over 18, but people on low incomes are able to access grants worth up to $300 per year.

Auckland dentist, Scott Waghorn, said that spending on dental emergencies could be avoided if patients were able to access preventative treatment. For $300, you can get a filling or a couple of teeth extracted, but if patients are able to see a dentist before symptoms become more advanced, it’s likely that these treatments wouldn’t be required. Dr Waghorn advised the government to consider the root causes of dental health problems, rather than resorting to the “ambulance at the bottom of the cliff scenario.”

Rachel Bridgeman, manager of Simply Dental, Wellington, agreed with Dr Waghorn, claiming that most cases of decay could easily be prevented. She suggested reducing the cost of routine checks to prevent more cases of decay and eliminate the need for more expensive dental procedures.

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