The New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA) President used his opening address at the annual conference to call on the government to improve the school dental service.
NZDA President, Dr Bill O’Connor, said the Community Oral Health Service is failing New Zealand kids, highlighting figures showing 96000 children are overdue their recalls with the dental therapist, 29000 young NZ children had teeth extracted last year, and 7000 kids required hospital dental treatment under general anaesthetic.
“I believe the Community Oral Health Service - is failing our kids – failing the children of New Zealand,” said Dr O’Connor.
Dr O’Connor said the issue was concerning for him, and he was using his platform to speak out on behalf of kids. “Today 120 young Kiwi kids will have teeth extracted. Why have they not been treated before they got to this point?”
Dr O’Connor stressed that he was not pointing the finger at dental therapists.
“None of what I have outlined is a negative comment regarding the dental therapists – they have a hard job, they are our colleagues. We all know how hard their job is.
“The system has failed these children and their parents. The system has failed those who work in it, trying to deliver the best outcomes for their patients,” said Dr O’Connor.
The large number of children being enrolled with the service is at odds with the large numbers of school-aged children that have untreated tooth decay. He had a message for the government, that it was now time to act.
“I call on the Minister of Health to make this a priority of this government and to act now to address this appalling situation. It's time to look after our kids!”