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More Than Half Of Kiwis Are Neglecting Their Teeth, Says New Research

AUCKLAND, New Zealand, March 31, 2021 – New research commissioned by leading telehealth company SmileDirectClub has revealed more than half of Kiwis (55%) have not had a dental health check or procedure in the last 12 months.

The high cost of dentist visits was the biggest barrier, with almost two fifths (39%) putting off dental work because of the price. Nine percent of Kiwis avoid the dentist because of odontophobia, the fear of going to the dentist.

The consumer survey, conducted by researchers Lonergan on behalf of leading teledentistry company, SmileDirectClub, asked more than 1,000 New Zealanders about their dental health habits and how they feel about their smiles.

Despite the New Zealand Ministry of Health recommending people visit a dentist regularly, where problems can be detected early and treated, the survey found 14% of Kiwis had not been to the dentist in the last five years or more. Two percent of New Zealanders have never had a dental health check.

Despite 2020 being a disruptive year with lockdowns, only 9% of Kiwis said they put off going to the dentist because of COVID-19 restrictions.

The research findings around cost being a major barrier was reinforced by a 2019 survey from the Ministry of Health that found 1.6 million adults in New Zealand did not visit a dental healthcare worker in the previous 12 months because of price.

SmileDirectClub’s Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Jeffrey Sulitzer says oral healthcare is particularly expensive in New Zealand compared to other countries around the world. “The research from SmileDirectClub, in addition to data from the Ministry of Health, highlight that cost is the number one barrier preventing Kiwis from accessing dental care, which is worrying.

“We know that good oral health means good overall health, so it’s important that looking after your teeth is as much of a priority as working out or eating well. Of course, there are also a number of direct health benefits associated with good oral hygiene including reduced chronic inflammation caused by gum disease. This then benefits the diabetic, heart and overall health condition, not to mention the mental and emotional benefits,” he says.

Dr. Sulitzer says that while many people joke about being scared of the dentist, odontophobia is a very real condition. It is also one of the most common phobias, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimating that it affects around 15-20% of the population worldwide.

“For the 9% of Kiwis who have this phobia, it can sometimes be caused by a traumatic experience at the dentist during childhood or a general fear of experiencing pain, but often the cause is unknown. We’re able to overcome some of these fears as our customers receive high-quality care through telehealth. The entire treatment process is overseen by an affiliated network of registered New Zealand dentists and orthodontists who use our teledentistry platform to provide remote aligner therapy to patients,” concludes Dr. Sulitzer.

The research also found:

  • Oral health can be a catalyst to kick-start other positive lifestyle changes – with two in five (41%) of respondents saying that straightening their teeth would inspire them to transform or make another positive change in their life
  • Nearly a quarter (23%) of Kiwis would be inspired to work out more if they straightened their teeth
  • 16% would be inspired to ask somebody new out on a date and 13% would try out a new hobby

Jason Coglan, Vice President of Australia and New Zealand at SmileDirectClub, says it is amazing how much confidence a smile can give and how that can transform a person’s entire life.

“From improving someone’s mood, to helping build better relationships, smiling is so powerful and that’s why it is essential to take proper care of your oral health.”

© Scoop Media

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