Dental association rejects academic's view

The New Zealand Dental Association has rubbished an Otago academic's suggestion subsidies for dentistry would need to go hand-in-hand with limits on how much dentists can charge.

Chief executive David Crum described Associate Prof Jonathan Broadbent's view that subsidies would need to be combined with regulations as ''anticompetitive nonsense''.

''I can't think of many New Zealanders who would agree to the Government setting the amount they could charge,'' he said.

The Government setting maximum prices would only work if it could guarantee dentists' costs would not change, and that practice staff would agree to wages being set by the Government.

Prof Broadbent made the statements after a suggestion from a dentist to RNZ that subsidies be increased in response to a growing number of people seeking emergency dental care.

He clarified yesterday he was not thinking of dentists who did not receive subsidies - only the ones who did.

''I agree that dentistry has high costs and these do rise over time. That's patently obvious but it isn't a reason against pricing regulation,'' he said.

''If a practice is willing to accept a government subsidy, there must be accompanying regulations. If there are to be subsidies for dental care, pricing regulations aren't nonsense, they are necessary.''

There were already examples of pricing regulation in New Zealand healthcare, including in dentistry.

​''Subsidised pharmaceuticals are an example of regulated pricing. If a pharmacy sells a subsidised pharmaceutical, the price they can charge on top of this is regulated.​''

A number of Dunedin people came forward on social media with their experiences of carrying out their own dentistry.

A former Dunedin dental nurse said in her time working at the University of Otago dental school she had seen people who did ''all sorts of things to their teeth''.

Reasons for people doing it included high cost, but also fear of more pain at the dentist, embarrassment at the state of their teeth, and not wanting to take time off work, she said.

''Taking their own teeth out was a problem, not just because of the cost but just getting an injection to numb the area was enough to put people off.

''The worst is when the tooth is so infected and the patient has to take antibiotics for a few days so the dentist can numb the nerve.''

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