Campaign for free dental care

Make Dental Care Free for All is an online petition calling on the Government to bring universal dental care into the public healthcare system to make it free for all.

Almost 13,000 New Zealanders have already added their name to the petition.

When our teeth and gums are looked after, our whole wellbeing is improved. Dental care means being able to share smiles with the people we love. It means being confident to connect socially and express ourselves. But people in successive governments have chosen to treat mouth health differently to the rest of our bodies by excluding dental care from the public health system. It’s the only aspect of health where people and families are expected to pay the full cost in the private market. As a result, far too many of us are locked out of proper care for our teeth and gums.

  • 42% of adults in Aotearoa have unmet dental need. For Māori adults, it’s 54%, and for Pasifika adults it’s 52%.
  • The average EFTPOS transaction from a visit to the dentist is $353.00
  • 72% of New Zealanders have delayed visiting the dentist because of cost.
  • Only 43% of people had visited a dentist in the last 12 months.
  • Polling shows 74% of people agree or strongly that adult dental care should be funded in the same way it is funded for children.

The Tooth be Told report also outlines many of the challenges for we have in New Zealand in relation to oral health.

The petition and campaign has been brought together by Dental for All, an alliance of unions (including ASMS, FIRST, NZNO and NZEI), health and community groups.

  • More than 7 out of 10 adults in New Zealand support bringing dental into the public health system, according to a new poll commissioned by the union for senior doctors and dentists and released on World Oral Health Day (20 March).
  • The poll, conducted by Talbot Mills and commissioned by the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS), showed 74% of people strongly agreed or agreed that adult dental care should be funded in the same way it is funded for children. Children’s dental care is currently free in New Zealand.
  • A group called Dental for All - comprising ASMS, anti-poverty groups such as Auckland Action Against Poverty, and practising dentists - is now calling for the politicians to bring universal dental into the public healthcare system in light of the poll.
  • The polling also revealed that 72% of people delayed visiting a dentist because of cost, and only 43% of people had visited a dentist in the last 12 months.

Dental for All is today launching an online petition with ActionStation calling on the government to enact this change and make dental care free for everyone.

“Dental care is just unaffordable for many New Zealanders,” says Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, Sarah Dalton. “It is only adding to the health inequities that plague our system.”

Brooke Stanley Pao, coordinator of Auckland Action Against Poverty, adds: “Successive governments have treated the health of our mouths differently to the health of the rest of our bodies, and we think it’s time to change that - and for the government to introduce universal dental and bring dental into the public healthcare system.”

The poll and petition follow a report from ASMS, Tooth be Told, published late last year showing 40% of people in Aotearoa cannot afford dental care.

Public dentist Hugh Trengrove says: “When our teeth and gums are looked after, our wellbeing improves. I see terrible cases where poor oral health leads to worse health problems, and government has the power to intervene to end that.”

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