SCHOOL dental services are undergoing a major overhaul to give children access to world class dental care.
It's part of the government's aim to improve dentistry around the country after surveys found existing clinics are not able to support modern dentistry.
New purpose-built clinics will feature the most up-to-date equipment available including fibre-optic hand pieces and digital x-rays, says Counties Manukau oral health programme manager Christine McKay.
Some little-used part-time clinics will close and be replaced with a mobile diagnostic van and transportable dental clinic.
"It's a full diagnostic screening van, it does x-rays and preventative treatment and only the children who need restorative treatment will go to a clinic," she says.
More preventative checks will mean fewer children needing treatment, she says.
Some school dental clinics are only open for part of the the year so being able to make appointments at a diagnostic van as the need arises provides more proactive oral care, she says.
Seven extra clinical dental staff will allow some clinics to open on a late night and weekend for better accessibility.
Up to 60 pads will be built to allow power, water and data connections to dental vans.
Ms McKay says the survey found school dental clinics were outdated and didn't comply with modern dentistry requirements.
A large amount of community consultation was carried out to ensure the needs of the community were going to be met.
Resource consents are being lodged to have extensions built to clinics at Howick and Wakaaranga intermediates and a rebuild of the Shelly Park School clinic.
There will also be new clinics at locations still to be confirmed in the central Botany area and Ormiston Rd.
Extensions are required because sterilisation of equipment needs to be done in a separate room to comply with modern hygiene standards.
"Modern practice is for parents to attend the appointment with the child so we get good parent engagement in the child's oral health."
Ms McKay says many people are unaware dental treatment is free for under-18s. There is also a perception that the health of children's first teeth isn't important because they will be replaced with permanent teeth.
"But the moment infection or decay gets into baby teeth it's in the gums and it will infect the permanent teeth."
If parents have a concern about their child's teeth they can phone 0800 TALK TEETH (0800-825-583) to get an appointment at the nearest clinic.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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