12 Jun 2018

Petition launched as DIY dentistry grows

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:30 pm on 12 June 2018

A Hamilton dentist who has dealt with people who have performed DIY dentistry on themselves has launched a petition to improve the state of New Zealanders' teeth. 

Dr Assil Russell is the co-founder of the charity dental clinic Revive a Smile, which has treated almost 10,000 adults free of charge since it began in 2012.

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Photo: 123RF

She is launching a petition on oral health which she plans to present to Parliament in October.

The petition calls for a subsidy for dental care for at-need people, an increase in the age for free dental care to 20 years and for GST to be removed from dental services.

Dr Russell has travelled around the country Revive a Smile's mobile clinic and said she was "amazed" by the amount of suffering that was going on in New Zealand

"The petition really is aiming to bring light to the problem and to ask the government to subsidise dentistry for these communities and make access more avoidable, so people don't have to suffer."

She told Afternoons some of the people who had come to the clinics had massive infections, with some who had left broken and rotting teeth for years.

One patient hadn't been to a dentist in 50 years, and only came to the clinic after performing some DIY dentistry on himself. 

"That's the sort of thing we shouldn't be seeing in New Zealand."

Many of the people she dealt with had tried to pull their teeth out themselves, said Dr Russell.

"They've left roots behind, that are now embedded in bone and now infected, and those problems are really difficult to treat."

She said the petition was not asking for it to be free for everybody, but was just asking for a subsidy for people at need in the community, including the homeless, the elderly and students at university.

"Everyone in New Zealand should have the right to go and see a highly qualified dentist and not be charged the full price, just as you do when you go to the doctor."

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