Urgent action to improve oral health

  • Pete Hodgson

The Government today released an action plan to establish new Community Oral Health Services, designed to improve and protect young people's teeth and the oral health of the wider community.

"The establishment of new Community Oral Health Services is the centrepiece of a major reform of New Zealand's oral health system, and will see an additional $40 million invested into child and adolescent oral health over the next four years," Helen Clark said.

"Protecting the health of our children is a top priority. The steady increase in the number of young New Zealanders with decayed teeth is of great concern. Labour moved early in our first term in government to reinstitute the training of dental therapists and to begin planning for a major re-investment in services.

"District Health Boards are now working on business cases to implement the government's plan. The Ministry of Health will consider the first round of funding applications in November.

"The funding is possible after Budget 2006 made an additional $40 million investment in child and adolescent oral health. The government had earlier committed $100 million in capital funding to upgrade facilities," Helen Clark said.

The Minister of Health Pete Hodgson said the release of Good Oral Health for All, for Life – the government's plan for reinvestment in oral health services – follows news earlier this week that the number of five year olds with decayed missing or filled teeth is continuing to rise.

"With the first graduate therapists entering the workforce now, the time for planning can end. It's now time for urgent action to improve the oral health of New Zealanders," Pete Hodgson said.

"Good Oral Health for All, for Life identifies seven areas for action in oral health services, including the creation of Community Oral Health Services and urgent work to address inequalities faced by Maori, Pacific and rural New Zealanders.

“One of the major new initiatives is the reorientation of services from the existing School Dental Service to Community Oral Health Services. Community based clinics will not just provide treatment services, but will also be an outreach base for all oral health promotion activities.

“The clinics will be larger, better equipped, and open for more hours, during more days of the year. In hard to reach areas, mobile clinics and mobile surgical buses will ensure that oral health care is available for all children and young people.

“A key part of our work will be acknowledging that appalling inequalities exist and telling DHBs that they must be addressed – Maori children, for example are three times more likely to have missing, decayed or filled teeth than the national average.

"The Labour-led government is building a health system which works for all families – the development of Community Oral Health Services will be an important part of our efforts," Mr Hodgson said.

  • Attached: background information on oral health in New Zealand
  • Good Oral Health for All, for Life: The Strategic Vision for Oral Health in New Zealand is published by the Ministry of Health and available on the publications page of their website.