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Rural Women calls for improved dental care

PRESS RELEASE 23rd March 2004

Rural Women calls for improved dental care

Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) warns that subsidised fluoridation will not fix the dental health crisis in many regions.

“Areas with a large rural component are facing serious difficulties in accessing dental health care for children. Infrequent dental checks result in widespread tooth decay,” says RWNZ health spokeswoman, Sherrill Dackers.

Mrs Dackers says that increased fluoridation funding announced by the Minister will provide some solution, but fluoridation is not practical in many rural water supplies. “The Ministry of Health also needs to address the problem of staff shortages for dental care in schools.”

“Once only a few children had teeth problems, now almost every child does, meaning that limited staff spend more time on each child.”

Northland is believed to be the worst affected area, with the full time equivalent of only 2 dental therapists for 5,800 school children. Canterbury is also known to be facing difficulties.

“With the population of dental therapists ageing throughout the country, the shortage will eventually reach most regions as staff retire.” Mrs Dackers says that many rural dental therapists already at retirement age are reluctant to withdraw their services due to the lack of replacements.

RWNZ supports the use of fluoridation in water supplies where practical. “We acknowledge that this is an effective measure to help prevent tooth decay. However, we would stress that it is not the be-all and end-all,” says Mrs Dackers.

ENDS

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