Son's DIY dental for cash-strapped father

Last updated 05:00 11/05/2012

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An East Auckland dad took a swig of bourbon then let his son pull out his aching tooth with pliers because he couldn't afford to go to the dentist.

Tevita Mahe says DIY dental is not uncommon for people keen to avoid hefty dental bills.

The Glenn Innes resident asked his son to remove his tooth after being turned away from two dental service providers last month.

Mahe queued at Middlemore Hospital's emergency dental clinic for three hours from 5am on April 25 but just missed out on the daily quota of 10 patients. He was 12th in line.

He was also turned away from the Southern Cross Campus in Mangere because the service was fully booked for the week.

"I needed to go back to work. I had already taken two days off and that already cost me $120 a day in wages. I have a disabled daughter to look after too so I didn't know what else to do," Mahe said.

"I came home and asked my son to take out my tooth. He said to me, 'are you ready dad?' I kept saying, 'wait, wait', then I took a drink of bourbon and he pulled it out."

Auckland District Health Board director of oral health Clive Ross encouraged those who couldn't afford dental care to use the health boards Relief of Pain clinics which are located at Middlemore Hospital, Southern Cross Buckland Road and Greenlane Clinical Centre.

"These offer emergency treatment for tooth pain on a drop-in basis and treatment for medically compromised people such as cancer or renal patients," Ross said.

Cases are prioritised so that children and those in most need of treatment are seen first. If a patient cannot be seen they are advised to return the next day. The cost of removing a tooth is $40.

Ross said the clinics were a "last resort for those unable to access early treatment" and provided emergency pain relief, rather than routine care.

"All dentists will discuss the treatment required, costs and ways to pay before proceeding with any work so people can anticipate the cost and spread it out where possible," he said.

The Government spends $216 million annually on oral health care and has recently invested a further $116m on infrastructure in Community Dental Service.
Health Ministry chief dental officer Robyn Haisman-Welsh said health boards must look into ways they can trial providing lower cost oral health services to vulnerable and low-income adults

"These trials are not a change in current policy, but to consider whether the increased investment by government in the Community Oral Health Service could provide new treatment opportunities for vulnerable and low income adults."

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Low-income adults with an urgent oral health problem, who cannot afford to see their dentist, should contact their hospital dental outpatient services to find out what is offered, she says.

- East And Bays Courier

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