21 Aug 2018

Oral health services 'failing children'

From Nine To Noon, 9:09 am on 21 August 2018

More than 100 children are having teeth extracted every day in New Zealand, and an under-resourced school dental system is getting the blame. 

no caption

Photo: 123rf.com

The Dental Association said last year 7000 children required hospital dental treatment under general anaesthetic and close to a 100,000 were overdue for a recall with the school dental service.

President of the association Dr Bill O'Connor told Nine to Noon there were not enough dental therapists to provide the treatment that was needed.   

"We're losing therapists out of the public workforce at a fairly constant rate and we're just not able to replace them, so nationally there is a serious shortage of therapists in the school dental system, he said. 

"Something is not attractive to them, whether it's the level of pay or their working conditions, I'm not quite sure, but they're not staying there."  

Dr O'Connor said it was unacceptable that children were not being treated before they got to the point where their teeth needed pulling out.

He said if the government increased funding for the dental service it would improve.

"The DHBs are allocated whatever funding they get each year and whatever proportion of it has to go to the school dental service or the Community Oral Health System, but it's certainly not keeping up with demand."  

National Clinical Director of Oral Health Riana Clarke said in a statement 15 percent of children were overdue for appointments with the Community Oral Health Service, which fell below their targets.

She said the Ministry was continuing to work with DHBs to reduce the number of overdue appointments.