National’s promise of $30m boost to childhood dental services is not enough

a man wearing a suit and tie: Watch: National and Labour fall short on adult dental care.

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Watch: National and Labour fall short on adult dental care.

A Mānagere-based social service is calling for even more resources to boost childhood dental services than The National Party’s $30 million promise.

National said on Tuesday it would increase the $100m currently spent on childhood dental services if elected next month.

Māngere Budgeting Services chief executive Darryl Evans says the proposed $30m investment is good but still not enough.

The cost of the likes of toothbrushes and toothpaste was too much for some families, he said.

“Many of our families are simply so cash-poor – unfortunately the cost of toothpaste and toothbrushes – many will think [the cost] is incredibly low but if you’ve only got $39 leftover then, of course, you’re not able to buy those,” Evans told Magic Talk’s Leah Panapa on Wednesday.

‘Falling on deaf ears’: Major parties fall short on adult dental care



“Last year we studied 1500 families where we contacted each family asking about their habits of teeth, and the average family of four told us there’s one toothbrush in the household, so the family of four share the one toothbrush.”

Evans said when driving to his Māngere office every day, he also sees a high volume of children consuming fizzy drinks on the way to school.

“A 1.5 litre of fizzy drink [is often] 99 cents at the local supermarket which is a major implication  – it’s massive,” Evans said.

“One of the things we have to be doing here is ensuring that our kids have access to toothpaste and toothbrushes [and] they’re taught how to brush their teeth.”

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But Evans said there’s also a growing need for more dental nurses and hygienists.

“We need our dentists back in schools in my opinion. If we can’t get our parents to do the job we’ve got to get into the schools and that’s not about teachers taking over the responsibility, it’s about getting the resources to the problem, and let’s start working with these kids.

“Prevention is better than cure and we all know that.”

ACT leader David Seymour said on Tuesday National’s policy was overdoing it.

“With Jacinda Ardern promising school lunches and Judith Collins offering toothbrushes and toothpaste, there’ll be little left for parents to do.”

But Evans said parents can’t always control what their children are consuming.

“You can’t be with them 24/7 – you can only encourage them and parents need to do their best – and certainly lower-income families need to be able to access toothbrushes and toothpaste. We now put them in every food parcel.

“It’s laudable that there’s going to be if National wins the election, an extra 30 percent or $30 million but – we’ve got to get to the root cause of prevention and regular inspections to intercept deterioration of teeth.”  

National leader Judith Collin said the policy aligned with her party’s social investment approach.

“By providing a targeted intervention in childhood we can provide lifelong benefits to our kids’ health,” she said on Tuesday.

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