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This section contains media releases released a little while ago. Please note that due to the long time when some of these were released images have been removed and some links might no longer work.

May 3, 2006

Dental Decay on the West Coast

A lot has been said about the West Coast District Health Board's decision to decline an offer from Ronald McDonald House Charities and here the DHB explains the reasons behind that decision.

As a matter of course the DHB would not normally consider private or commercial sponsorship for services that are part of the DHB's core public sector obligations. In the case of mobile dental services for children in remote areas, the DHB had a growing anxiety about its ability to fund a much-needed upgrade of equipment, which is why an offer from RMHC was entertained. The new availability of core public funding for this type of service brings the situation back into the mainstream, meaning that the DHB does not need to consider other options.

Any sponsorship arrangement inevitably raises questions about whether the non-financial costs are justified by the benefits, and the WCDHB evaluates these on a case-by-case basis. Previous media coverage of the initial approach by RMHC shows that a minority of Board members didn't believe the approach should be taken up because of concerns about association with junk food. However, this perspective clearly didn't carry the day and, while it may have been a factor for some Board members, in the end the Board chose not to pursue an arrangement with RMHC as the availability of Government funding

The DHB welcomed the Government's confirmation of a national funding package for the upgrade of school dental facilities, including the provision of mobile dental services for remote areas such as those on the West Coast.

The West Coast DHB had already provided the Ministry of Health information regarding the need to upgrade and update its mobile dental caravan, although in the meantime West Coast DHB staff-continue to provide a sterling service to remote parts of the West Coast with the resources they have.

However, West Coast children do have poor oral health by New Zealand standards, with decay rates that are over twice as high as in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin.

In fact dental procedures are the leading cause for West Coast children aged between 2 and 12 to be admitted to hospital.

The causes of this tooth decay include both poor diets and inadequate exposure to fluoride (whether from water or toothpaste), but are not the result of outdated and inadequate facilities, or a lack of staff.

The West Coast DHB's School Dental Service is fully staffed, and all children are seen at least once a year for checkups and any necessary treatment.

Unfortunately too many of these children require dental treatment.

Dental therapists use protective coatings on back teeth and fluoride varnish to help prevent decay, but these are not miracle cures. Without effective prevention at home, tooth decay will march on.

Avoiding tooth decay is not difficult:

  • brush twice a day
  • use a fluoride toothpaste
  • children should use a standard adult fluoride toothpaste, not a low-fluoride children's toothpaste
  • keep soft drinks, sweets and fruit juice for treats and mealtimes, and don't put babies to bed with a bottle containing anything but water

For more information please contact
Vikki Carter
Community Liaison Officer
03 768 0499, Extn. 2665
027 245 9595

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