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New Zealand children miss annual dental check-ups

Owing to a backlog in service, many New Zealand children have missed their annual dental check-ups. (Photograph: Tewan Banditrukkanka/Shutterstock)
Dental Tribune International

Dental Tribune International

Fri. 3. August 2018

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MANAWATŪ, New Zealand: Frequent dental check-ups are important to maintain good oral health. However, in the Manawatū district on the North Island of New Zealand, more than 4,000 schoolchildren have missed their annual dental checks because of a backlog at the MidCentral District Health Board’s (DHB) Child and Adolescent Oral Health Service since 2016. The backlog has caused many children to suffer from dental afflictions.

The DHB service provides free dental treatment for children up to 17 years and uses mobile clinics to visit more than 70 schools. In 2016, four resignations at the DHB, the introduction of a new records system and damage to one of the service’s mobile dental units caused the backlog. By December that same year, 8,000 children had not had a check-up for more than a year.

In October 2017, there were still more than 6,500 children on the waiting list because of staff shortages. At that time, the service had 17 staff members and five vacant roles, Dr Phil Marshall, Clinical Director of Dental Services for the MidCentral DHB, told the New Zealand-based news website Stuff.co.nz.

“Over the last couple of years, the service has seen a number of retirements as the dental therapists have reached the end of their careers, and recruitment of graduates can only be done at the end of each year when they graduate,” added Marshall in a written response to Stuff. “There is some difficulty retaining graduates once they have gained some initial experience.”

As a consequence of the missed check-ups, 354 children needed to be treated under general anaesthetic in the last 12 months, often to have decayed teeth pulled or restorative work done. During this time, more than 4,800 Manawatū children missed their annual check-ups again.

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