Unaffordable dental care called out for its ‘snowball effect’

Long Lunch 23/01/2018
Photo: Getty.

Improving dental care in New Zealand is a recurring issue for politicians, who have been called on by health advocates to make prevention services more affordable.  

Just under half of adults with natural teeth visited a dental health care worker in 2016-17, down from 52% a decade previous, according to the New Zealand Health Survey.

Dr Assil Russel from dental charity Revive A Smile joins Wendyl Nissen on The Long Lunch to discuss the reality of dental needs and access across the country.

The New Zealand-based dental charity provides services for those most in need, and is petitioning for crucial changes to the current dental system.

“We’ve seen first-hand the suffering that’s going on in our communities all across New Zealand,” Dr Russel told RadioLIVE.

The petition is calling for the Government to increase the age of free dental care to 20, to remove GST from dental services and to subsidise dental care for at-need Kiwis.

There’s absolutely room for improvement.

Dr Russel describes “third world type problems” that her charity sees across the country, including swollen faces, infected teeth, and New Zealanders attempting to remove their own teeth with pliers.

“It’s so sad that it’s reached that stage in a country like New Zealand,” she says.  

Accessible dental care was brought up last year after former Prime Minister Helen Clark expressed concern over the New Zealand’s high dental care costs.  

"I hear very concerning reports of those who end up with very serious dental problems because they cannot afford regular checkups and small problems end up as big ones…" tweeted Ms Clark.

Dr Russel’s organisation hopes that change will come for the dental industry, particularly with the Labour-led Government’s “being sympathetic for the plight of Kiwis”.

“It’s a snowball effect,” she says. “It’s not curing the problem; it’s not addressing the causes.”

Listen to the full interview with Dr Assil Russel above. 

Afternoon Talk with Wendyl Nissen, 12pm - 3pm on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.