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Affordable Dental Care Is The Biggest Gap In New Zealand's Health System - Anderton

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Jim Anderton
Jim Anderton

"The cost of seeing the dentist is beyond the means of thousands of New Zealanders - especially those on fixed incomes. A bill of $400 or more to get a sore tooth fixed? They can't do it," he says.

He was responding to the 2009 New Zealand Oral Health Survey, commissioned by the Ministry of Health, which has just been released. The survey looked at the dental health of 4,906 New Zealanders.

Jim Anderton campaigned for affordable dental health care in the 2008 election.

He says the new study vindicates his concern about the seriousness of the issue.

The study shows the number of New Zealanders who can't afford to see a dentist increased by a third between 1988 and 2009.

"Nearly half of adult New Zealanders are not receiving any form of dental care. The main reason is the cost.

"In the twenty years since the last major study, dental care for those under 14 years old has improved, but it has significantly worsened for those over 18. Cost is the main factor that explains the difference. Dental care has got cheaper for kids.

"Free dental care is currently available in New Zealand from birth to 18 years.

"We need to start bringing the rest of dental health care into the public health system, starting by making dental care free for the most vulnerable groups, pregnant women and the over-65s.

"Prevention should be the thrust of a good oral health policy. Ensuring that all people have access to dental care will have a powerful preventative effect, and this should be supported by education, publicity and the fluoridation of all drinking water (if that is supported by a parliamentary inquiry). There should also be a bonding scheme for dentists and dental hygienists who are prepared to work in rural/provincial areas where dental professionals are in short supply in return for writing off student debt."

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