New Zealand dentists urge the government to do more to support low income patients
New Zealand’s Dental Association has urged the government to do more to make dental care more accessible to patients on a low income.
The Dental Association claims that the people who need dental care the most are missing out on routine appointments, leaving them at risk of complex oral health issues. Although support is available to low income patients through Work and Income, this only covers emergency treatment. Dentists are keen for the government to do more to enable those on low incomes to see a dentist on a regular basis. Regular checks reduce the risk of gum disease and decay by up to 60 percent according to the Oral Health Foundation.
President of the Dental Association, Bill O’Connor, described the assistance provided by Work and Income as the “ambulance at the bottom of the cliff” and suggested that more should be done to prevent people getting to the point where they need urgent intervention. Emergency treatment is also often only a means to an end in terms of relieving pain, and patients who seek urgent help may need further treatment to address the root cause. In this case, they’re unlikely to be able to afford the treatment they need and will therefore end up requiring immediate help again further down the line.
Mel and Jarred Smith are an example of how difficulties with dental health can affect health and wellbeing in general. Jarred said that his teeth make him irritable and anxious, while Mel claims that her smile holds her back. She is embarrassed to apply for jobs and she feels self-conscious when meeting new people. The couple insists that dental bills for the kinds of treatment they would need are completely unobtainable and this is why they often resort to emergency trips to the hospital. It costs around $300 to get urgent treatment in hospital, but the cost of going to a dentist could be ten times higher.Join this Discussion