Taranaki people avoid the dentist
Whether it is the cost or a general dislike of dentists, people in Taranaki don't go to the dentist unless they have to.
And they are not alone. According to figures from the Ministry of Health 54.2 per cent of Kiwis only went to the dentist in the last 12 months if they had a toothache, or they didn't go at all. Out of 20 DHBs only two have a worse attendance record at the dentist than Taranaki, on 65.6 per cent.
Taranaki District Health Board clinical services manager child and maternal health Leigh Cleland said Taranaki is slightly lower, but attendance was low across the entire country.
"Less than half of all New Zealanders are seeing a dentist annually which does not support good oral health nor general good health."
A survey done by Southern Cross Health Trust last September found 68 percent of members didn't go to the dentist because of cost.
But not many people see the need to get health insurance. A Southern Cross Health Society spokeswoman said 14 per cent of the members had some level of dental cover - about 115,000 out of the 815,000 members.
Free dental care is being provided for up to 1500 low income adults through a new initiative - Smile New Zealand - funded and organised by Southern Cross Health Trust and the New Zealand Dental Association.
The first lot of free dental work took place in 14 cities last week. The next round, in November, is expected to include Taranaki.
Taranaki, along with Hawke's Bay, had more people who needed teeth pulled out than anywhere else. In both centres 9.4 per cent of people had a tooth pulled out in the last year. The national average is 7.1 per cent.
Cleland said prevention and early detection of dental issues is better than cure.
"Most dental issues will become worse if not treated in a timely manner. They will cause more pain and cost more if left untreated. Also, healthy teeth support general good health. Poor oral health can contribute to poor general health and other preventable chronic diseases, including heart disease."
Dental care is free for anyone under 18 years of age and the Ministry of Health figures for children in Taranaki are better than the national average. Nationally 3.9 per cent of children, under the age of 14, had one or more teeth removed in the last 12 months compared to 2.1 per cent in Taranaki.
"The issue for this group is getting their families and whanau to ensure they attend their appointments and with a lot of hard work by our dental team, Taranaki now has 100% enrolment for all children under 5 years of age," Cleland said.
"We are working hard on strategies to ensure children attend their appointments and receive dental check ups and care."
It has been four years since fluoride was taken out of New Plymouth water and it takes about 5 years to see an impact, she said.
"Anecdotally the clinicians caring for our children and young people have started to see an increase in tooth decay in children in areas where fluoride has been removed."