Ngāi Takoto break down barriers for dental care accessibility

March 2, 2022, 1:16 p.m.

Kaumātua, kuia, whānau, hapū and iwi face a number of barriers when trying to access dental care. Affordability, low confidence, long waiting lists, overwhelmed dental services, a shortage of dental practitioners, transport, understanding of oral health plus many more contributing factors mean that Māori are going for long periods of time in pain. Ngai Takoto has partnered with husband and wife dental team, Ian and Suzanne Carpenter, who are spending time in early March visiting all Ngai Takoto marae to provide free dental health care. Up to 18 members of each marae (Wharemaru Marae, Mahimaru Marae, Waimanoni Marae and Te Paa a Parore Marae) will be able to reap the benefits of this kaupapa. 

"There are a significant number of people in Te Hiku who are unable to afford dental care and this impacts on their quality of life through poor health and mouth pain. Even for those who can afford dental care, there is a considerable wait time for care in Te Hiku at present due to demand" explain the Carpenter dental duo.

The Ministry of Health published the report 'Oranga Waha: Oral Health Research Priorities for Māori' which reiterates; "Good oral health is not equally available to all citizens of Aotearoa. Dental services for adults remain largely outside the system of publicly funded or subsidised health care. Preventative, restorative, or rehabilitative dental care is accessible to the affluent but often unattainable to those who are less well-off."

The report goes on to say that only one in 20 adults are accessing oral healthcare due to affordability.

Te Rūnanga o Ngai Takoto has fully funded the dental visit which covers services such as extractions, consultations, simple composite fillings, x-rays, advice, front teeth root canal treatments, composite front teeth repair, hygiene and gum health. With tautoko from each marae, iwi business arm, rūnanga staff and kaimanaaki team, the barriers will be broken down to give access to more whānau.

Pera Pivac of Waimanoni marae is looking forward to this opportunity as his usual dentist moved to Auckland to start her own practice.

"It takes a long time to build trust in a dentist, doctor, barber etc. They're looking after your wellbeing, so I was a bit lost when my Dentist, Pavai moved away. We have other dentists in Kaitaia but the waitlist is long or it can become quite expensive so a dental visit ends up being a low priority. I've often thought about pulling my own teeth out to save the bill but then I really want to save my teeth. They are in good health, I later realised it was gum health I needed to focus on. My teeth were fine, but their foundation wasn't. Maybe more education around these things will help us keep the pliers in the drawers if we understand our oral health more" said Pivac.

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