Limited knowledge of free dental services and a "no pain, therefore no need to visit the dentist" mentality have put the rate of Manawatu youth dental visits below the national target.
As at 2012, 82.8 per cent of Manawatu adolescents used the MidCentral's child and adolescent oral health service, where the national target was 85 per cent.
MidCentral child and adolescent health service manager Judy Boxall said unless adolescents had an immediate issue, they often did not register the need to go to the dentist.
"They should go at least once a year and more often depending on their circumstances," she said.
"Adolescents appreciate independence, but parents have a role as well. They need to role model good health practices and be supportive."
Boxall said it was important oral health practices started at childhood. "Establishing good oral health practices has to start young so when they become adolescents they maintain those practices."
At a meeting of groups involved with adolescents in Horowhenua last week, it was suggested further promotion of the visual benefits gained from good oral health, including an attractive smile and fresh breath could help improve adolescent visiting rates.
"Appearance is something that is important for adolescents."
- Manawatu Standard
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