24 Sep 2012

Dentistry academic calls for more oral health programmes in the Pacific

6:51 pm on 24 September 2012

A New Zealand dentistry academic says there is a critical need for more oral health programmes in the Pacific

Dr Jonathan Leichter, who is from Otago University, runs a dental programme in the Cook Islands which for the last seven years has taken students to the islands to treat locals and to teach them about dental hygiene.

The programme has received one thousand dollars in new funding to extend the education part of the programme to Cook Islanders living in New Zealand.

Dr Leichter says dental problems aren't just limited to the Cook Islands and there should be programmes to address poor oral health across the Pacific.

"It's critically important. This is a problem not confined to Cook Islanders, our project is confined to the Cook Islands but we'd love to see other projects targeting Tonga, Samoa, Niue, Vanuatu. There's a whole untapped and unmet dental needs throughout the entire pacific."

Dr Jonathan Leichter says Pacific people need to be taught about the link between gum disease, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.