Community | 23 August, 2019

Fear and Cost Barrier to Dental Care

“Fear and costs” are standing in the way of maintaining one family’s dental care in the remote town of Wairoa in the Hawke’s Bay.

Tina Sialemisa says she knows the importance of oral health but she and her family don’t see the dentist regularly.

This year was the Wairoa resident’s second year visiting the Lumino Mobile Clinic. The state of the art mobile clinic visits the area once a year, in what is a joint collaboration with the  Ngati Pahauwera Development Trust.

“The turn off is the cost,” says Tina. “That, and I have memories of visiting the dentist as a kid.”

“Memories of the murder house!”

This year, Tina went in for a check-up and although she feels discomfort in her mouth at times, she was hopeful no work would need to be done.

Dentist Sherona Singh, from Lumino White Smile in Takapuna, extracted one tooth and told Tina her other teeth could be saved if she worked hard on cleaning them.

“Oral health impacts your entire health,” says Sherona. “It would be great if the community were given more education about this.”

Seven other Sialemisa family members attended the clinic and Tina says they feel lucky to have received care.

She says she tries hard to encourage her children to look after their oral health, however at the end of the day “I can’t force them…even with their electric toothbrushes they received for Christmas!”

The success of the initiative has prompted the Ngati Pahauwera Development Trust to consider expanding the service to other areas of the region.

“There’s such a need,” says Tina of the free dental service.  “If they can expand it in the community that would be great.”

Chairman of the Ngati Pahauwera Development Trust Toro Waaka says he was keen to expand the service to Te Aranga Marae in Flaxmere along with other areas of Hastings and Napier, and was putting the call out for sponsors and volunteer dentists.

Hastings District councillor and Flaxmere community stalwart Henare O’Keefe told 1 News there was no doubt there was a need for such a service.

“There is a dentist for the kids but a lot of adults don’t go to because it’s too expensive – something like this would be appreciated and I think there is a good chance it will happen.”

This was the fourth year of the initiative, with dentists from all around New Zealand performing over $40,000 worth of care to around 70 locals.

The waiting list for next year already has 50 people on it and dates have already been set for two weeks in mid-January.