Innovative solution helps workers access dental care

Source: 1News

Dentists are hoping the upcoming Budget will give some help to Kiwis struggling to access affordable dental care, amid a rise in people needed hospital attention with tooth pain.

Multiple DHBs have recorded a rise in the number of people turning up at emergency departments with urgent dental issues.

The following DHBs were asked.

- Auckland DHB – 387 dental presentations in 2020 and 471 presentations in 2021

- Middlemore DHB – 919 dental presentations in 2020 and 1011 presentations in 2021

- Hawke's Bay DHB – 608 dental presentations in 2020 and 678 presentations in 2021

- Te Pae Tiaki Wellington – 604 dental presentations in 2020 and 614 presentations in 2021

- Canterbury and West Coast DHB – 789 dental presentations in 2020 and 979 presentations in 2021

- Southern DHB – Number not known

New Zealand Dental Association Access to Care spokesperson Dr Katie Ayers says she wants more government support for the sector.

“I’ve worked in the sector for 26 years and the funding is still the same, we just want the basics covered to get people out of pain,” she said.

"About 75% of health care is funded by the Government but less than half a per cent of dental care is funded by the Government, every New Zealander has the right to good oral health and probably about half the population has significant barriers to accessing that care."

"The longer you leave a dental problem the greater the chance it will get worse, people are admitted to ED with infections, sometimes even ICU and can die from dental infections," Dr Ayers said.

A Hawke’s Bay timber company noticed staff were needing days off work due to dental pain. They teamed up with local health providers, creating an opt-in scheme called "Floss like a boss".

Employees put $15 a week aside for dental work, boosted by a one-off employer contribution.

Tumu Timbers Kylie Truman says the programme has changed lives.

“Employees will get an assessment, x-ray, clean and a full in-depth plan, some of them need a lot of work done, ”

“As soon as you start having days off and you're in pain you’ve already gone past seeing the dentist. If they do develop a toothache we can often get them seen quite soon or within the week because we have the relationship with the dentist," she said.

Tumu Timbers employee Isaac Nu’u said he had never been to the dentist before starting the plan.

“My teeth would always be sore. It gives me a migraine, every fortnight my nose will swell up and have a real bad nosebleed.

“I’ve never been to a dentist because it’s too expensive. Once I started the scheme I didn’t even notice the money ... having my teeth fixed has helped my confidence, it feels good to have a smile now,” he said.