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More than 7 out of 10 People Support Bringing Dental into Public Healthcare System - New Poll

More than 7 out of 10 adults in New Zealand support bringing dental into the public health system, according to a new poll commissioned by the union for senior doctors and dentists and released today, on World Oral Health Day (20 March).

The poll, conducted by Talbot Mills and commissioned by the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS), showed 74% of people strongly agreed or agreed that adult dental care should be funded in the same way it is funded for children. Children’s dental care is currently free in New Zealand.

A group called Dental for All - comprising ASMS, anti-poverty groups such as Auckland Action Against Poverty, and practising dentists - is now calling for the politicians to bring universal dental into the public healthcare system in light of the poll.

The polling also revealed that 72% of people delayed visiting a dentist because of cost, and only 43% of people had visited a dentist in the last 12 months.

Dental for All is today launching an online petition with ActionStation calling on the government to enact this change and make dental care free for everyone.

“Dental care is just unaffordable for many New Zealanders,” says Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, Sarah Dalton. “It is only adding to the health inequities that plague our system.”

Brooke Stanley Pao, coordinator of Auckland Action Against Poverty, adds: “Successive governments have treated the health of our mouths differently to the health of the rest of our bodies, and we think it’s time to change that - and for the government to introduce universal dental and bring dental into the public healthcare system.”

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The poll and petition follow a report from ASMS, Tooth be Told, published late last year showing 40% of people in Aotearoa cannot afford dental care.

Public dentist Hugh Trengrove says: “When our teeth and gums are looked after, our wellbeing improves. I see terrible cases where poor oral health leads to worse health problems, and government has the power to intervene to end that.”

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