1,000 signatures reached
To: House of Representatives
Introduce universal free dental care
Provide universal free dental care for New Zealanders of all ages, not just children.
This is an ambitious goal that the Ministry of health should strive towards. We ask the Ministry of Health to remove barriers to good oral health, starting with these concrete steps:
1. Subsidise dental care for communities that need it most;
2. Increase the age for access to free dental care to age 20
Why is this important?
We have universal free health care, why not dental care? Many people can’t afford dental check ups, or are put off going to the dentist because of the costs associated with treatment.
Dentists are finding tooth conditions associated with countries with much higher levels of poverty than New Zealand, because dental care is expensive for so many of us.
Head of Preventative and Restorative Dentistry at Otago University, Associate Professor Jonathan Broadbent, says the last national dental survey found that about half of New Zealand's population had put off dental treatment they knew they needed because of the cost.[2,3]
Dental care is understandably a highly regulated industry and the costs of running a dental clinic are therefore very high. There are also not enough dentists in some regions.
It can cost a lot just to get a checkup, putting people off from getting regular review of the health of their teeth.
Basic dental services are provided up until 18 - ending at a crucial time when young people are leaving home and are financially constrained.
Dental care can take second place to more urgent living costs when under financial stress,
putting off care until more serious problems occur. If dental problems are taken care of early it can save a lot more money later on.
Left untreated, dental infections can spread leading to serious and sometimes life threatening illnesses that require hospitalisation. Poor oral health has also been linked to conditions like heart disease and diabetes which financially burden the health care system.
Further, poor oral health is associated with poorer self-reported quality of life and negatively impacts on employment prospects. A Ministry of Health survey shows that dental problems have an indirect cost to society, with one in ten adults aged 18–64 years taking an average of 2.1 days off work or school in the previous year due to problems with their teeth or mouth.
An affordable and accessible dental care service would catch health problems before they become too serious, reduce barriers to good health for our whole population and reducing later health costs. In the meantime there are specific steps that can be taken to improve access to dental care now.
To begin with we can take concrete steps to remove cost barriers to good dental care -
1. Subsidise dental care for at-need communities;
2. Age for access to free dental care increased to 20.
Sign now to ask the new Minister of Health David Clark to take these concrete steps for better access to dental care for everyone.
1 - Making dental care affordable to those who need it most should be a priority – dentist, 20/11/17 https://www.facebook.com/Breakfaston1/videos/10155785527952719/
2 - Former Prime Minister Helen Clark https://twitter.com/HelenClarkNZ/status/931265560838529024
3 - "Dental decay remains the most prevalent chronic (and irreversible) disease in New Zealand" http://www.health.govt.nz/publication/our-oral-health-key-findings-2009-new-zealand-oral-health-survey
4 - Smile NZ to provide free dental care for low income Kiwis https://www.southerncross.co.nz/group/media-releases/2016/Smile-NZ-to-provide-free-dental-care-for-low-income-Kiwis
5 - Helen Clark calls for Govt to implement free dental care, 17/1117 http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/news/politics/helen-clark-calls-for-govt-to-implement-free-dental-care/
6 - Dental expert says dental care in NZ treated like 'luxury', calls for funding overhaul 20/11/17 https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/dental-expert-says-care-in-nz-treated-like-luxury-calls-funding-overhaul
How it will be delivered
In person to the Minister of Health David Clark.