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Major Study Demonstrates Oral Health Improvements

PRESS RELEASE: 15.12.10
FOR IMMEDIATE USE

Major Study Demonstrates Oral Health Improvements in New Zealand – It’s Not Really About Cost

A landmark survey of New Zealand oral health clearly shows that Kiwi teeth have significantly improved over the past two decades.

Dr David Crum, CEO of the New Zealand Dental Association, stated:

“After decades of not having nationwide data on the oral health status of New Zealanders the Government can finally base oral health policy on accurate evidence. We now have the evidence for future health policies and programmes."

The 2009 New Zealand Oral Health Survey, commissioned by the Ministry of Health, examines the habits and dental status of 4,906 New Zealanders. It’s the first comprehensive study on this scale since 1988.

Dr Crum reports dentists are delighted to see that oral health has improved across all age groups since the 1988 survey - especially for children and young adults. “Much of this is due to the continued commitment by dentists and the Government to provide free dental care to the under 18 age group, but it's not all about free care as there has also been a huge reduction in the number of adults losing teeth as well.”

The survey did show that 44% of New Zealand adults surveyed responded that cost is a barrier to dental care. Dr Crum stated whilst he strongly agreed there are sectors of the community who genuinely find dental care unaffordable, population wide there is no real cost barrier to care: “spending on your health is largely a matter of priority, in the end it’s the simple things you do daily at home (diet and tooth-brushing using a fluoride toothpaste) that provide long-term dental health and reduce costs. The survey clearly reinforces that message.”

“Another study - the recent NZ Household Economic Study - showed the average weekly household spend on health is $24.30, of which dental care is only $4.70. That’s hardly a barrier when the average household spend on alcohol and tobacco is over six times ($29.20) the amount spent on dental care. New Zealanders spend more on pet food and plants and almost twice as much per week on hairdressing than their teeth", said Dr Crum.

"Dental disease is almost entirely preventable (as are the costs) and the Association strongly believes that whether you take care of your teeth or not is, to a large extent, a lifestyle choice, we can’t force people to take care of themselves, but research clearly shows a sensible diet and spending a few minutes a day on caring for your teeth can produce life-long dental health benefits.”

The New Zealand Dental Association continues to promote oral health and prevention of dental disease as the way of the future. "Children do not get to pick their parents; it is parents who choose whether they instill good health habits in their children”, Dr Crum stated, "for those disadvantaged children, communities need to stand up and provide community based health initiatives to assist. This New Zealand survey again showed the huge benefits of water fluoridation and reinforces the message we have for communities and for Government – that there is a need to strongly support the health professions in preventing dental disease – particularly for children who grow up in less privilege sectors of our communities – through safe effective water fluoridation."

ENDS

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