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Funding to repair cracks in rural dentistry

30 August 2006

RWNZ welcomes funding to repair cracks in rural dentistry

Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) welcomes news this week that more funding is to be put into oral health, with a particular focus on improving the services for rural, Maori and Pacific Islanders.

School dental services were once the backbone of our children’s dental care, but during the 1990s the number of dental therapists (dental nurses) fell by half, leaving the service badly under-resourced. Since then there’s been a steady increase in the number of young New Zealanders with decayed teeth. Our children have clearly fallen through the cracks.

Statistics also show huge regional differences in children’s oral health, with rural areas faring badly. Lack of fluoridation plays a part in this, as well as difficulties accessing services due to distance or affordability, including the costs of travel.

DHBs must now apply for some of the $40 million of new funding to implement strategies under the Government’s ‘Good Oral Health for All, for Life’ plan, with the first funding round taking place in November.

RWNZ urges DHBs to take into account rural needs when designing new systems for delivering oral health care. Universal access should be the goal, which might call for a mix of community clinics, school-based services or mobile units.

Education is also vital. People need information about the benefits of fluoridation, particularly in rural areas where individual and community water supplies are rarely fluoridated. Dietary education must also play a part. Sweet drinks and fast foods have not only led to a startling increase in obesity, but also contributed to poor dental health.


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