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Improving oral health crucial to improving mental health

5th June 2018

Media Release

Improving oral health crucial to improving mental health and well-being of all New Zealander’s

The NZ Dental & Oral Health Therapists Association(NZDOHTA) is a national organisation which represents and supports dental and oral health therapists and dental hygienists on professional issues.

NZDOHTA welcomes the opportunity to provide feedback on the Government's Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction. Oral health professionals such as Dental Therapists, Oral Health Therapists and Dental Hygienists work with whanau experiencing mental health and addiction.

The major improvement that NZDOHTA has advocated for as part of its submission is that:

“Good oral health is crucial in achieving improved mental health for all New Zealanders. Optimal mental health cannot be achieved if a person is experiencing dental or orofacial pain “

– Arish Naresh, Chairperson, NZDOHTA

Making improvements in the following areas would contribute to towards improving oral health related quality of life and mental health in general.

These are:

Children with malocclusion and other orthodontic issues also experience bullying and harassment in their teenage years. Redirecting funding or investing new money into the funding orthodontics for children living in low socio-economic areas would contrite significantly in lifting their morale. These children are then less likely to be bullied for their appearance. Unfortunately, these children are more likely to come from Maori and Pasifika families and without funding from public sector, they may not access orthodontic care due to costs. To achieve equity, the public sector must put in place strategies to close the inequity gaps.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that many adults have problems chewing, experience dental pain, have difficulties in eating, and problems in social relationships because of oral disorders. Poor self-perceived oral health and relatively poor quality of life co-exist in the same subgroup of adults. Therefore, it is important to fund basic oral care for mental health and addiction sufferers. The mouth is the window to the body and dental/orofacial pain should not be overlooked in people suffering mental health. In fact, it becomes even more important to ensure that they are receiving preventive dental care and regular maintenance as part of their holistic care plan.

Opportunities also exist to improve oral health care for people suffering from dementia in aged care environments. We believe that dental and oral health therapists with adult scope of practice would be vital in addressing the unmet oral health needs for this population group. We encourage the inquiry panel to explore the merits of this option through further conversations with NZDOHTA.

Ends

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