Free dental care is being provided for up to 1500 low income adults through a new initiative - Smile New Zealand - funded and organised by Southern Cross Health Trust and the New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA).
The first of the free dental work will take place at 18 practices across 11 regions between 13th – 17th May. 83 dentists are generously donating their time at their cost and the clinics have been made available to adults who hold a Community Services Card.
Terry Moore, Southern Cross Health Trust CEO, says many adults are missing out on basic dental care.
“We know from our research that there are a lot of New Zealanders cannot afford even basic dental care – as unlike the majority of health, dentistry isn't a subsidised service. Many people in our communities struggle to pay for day-to-day basics so seeking dental care even when they are in pain simply isn’t within their budget. It’s those people that we want to help,” he said.
David Crum, CEO of the NZDA, said the Association applauded the dentists and their staff who have volunteered to be a part of the programme. He also called for a collaborative approach to dental care for low income adults.
“While some DHBs and Work and Income New Zealand are able to offer help with emergency work or pain relief, many people are simply falling through the cracks, living in constant pain from untreated decay or disease. In some cases the physical discomfort also translates into social discomfort, not wanting to smile, socialise, speak or eat because of the appearance or odour of their teeth.
“We believe partnerships such as ours with Southern Cross Health Trust are an important way to help bridge the gap and improve access to dental care to those who most need it.”
General Medical Practices in lower socioeconomic areas, social workers, midwives and other community agencies such as WINZ, night shelters and food banks, who are in contact with high needs and vulnerable families were informed of the free clinic days and the appointments were booked within days.
Terry Moore said, “The need is huge so we’re not surprised at the speed in which the appointments were filled. We already have plans in place to do this again in November.”
Each 40 minute appointment will allow the patient to receive one dental treatment consisting of basic but essential dental care which could range from a filling, extraction, relief of pain or sorting an infection to preventative care such as fluoride applications or a scale and polish. Patients will also receive oral health education and a free hygiene pack.