Dental News - Dentist starts petition asking for better dental care in New Zealand

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Dentist starts petition asking for better dental care in New Zealand

Once the petition has reached 5,000 signatures, Dr Assil Russell will deliver it to the Minister of Health. (Photograph: salajean/Shutterstock)

Wed. 15. August 2018


HAMILTON, New Zealand: The horrific state in which many New Zealanders find their teeth has been likened, by some professionals, to those from developing countries. In a bid to improve the overall standard of New Zealanders’ oral health, dentist and co-founder of the charity Revive a Smile Dr Assil Russell recently started a petition to help persuade the New Zealand government into introducing universal free dental care.

Russell’s charity has helped almost 10,000 New Zealanders who cannot afford dental treatment, many of whom are suffering from extreme pain. As reported by New Zealand-based news website, Russell recounted a patient who had attempted to remove his third molar by initially crushing it with pliers and then drilling the fragments out with his battery drill, using alcohol as an anaesthetic.

“These stories aren’t one-in-every-hundred, these are really common occurrences that we find every day,” Russell said in the article.

Russell noted that universal dental care is an ambitious goal. However, to help take initial steps in achieving it, the petition is asking the New Zealand government to subsidise dental care to communities most in need and to lift the age limit for free dental care from age 18 to age 20.

According to reports, a third of New Zealand adolescents do not go for regular check-ups for a number of reasons, including a lack of education around the importance of oral health at an early age and the low priority of dental health in general. As reported by Dental Tribune Online in January 2018, almost 50 per cent of all New Zealand adults avoid the dentist because it is too expensive. That cost barrier is something Russell also mentioned in the petition as the reasoning behind the country’s poor oral health.

Setting an initial goal of 5,000 signatures, the petition has already received 4,769 (as of 13 August). Once all 5,000 signatures have been collected, Russell will deliver it in person to the Minister of Health, Dr David Clark.

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