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About 80 dental clinics around the country have volunteered to treat nearly 1000 patients over a two-week period. Yesterday, patients with Community Services Cards were given free dental care, including check-ups, tooth removals and fillings. At Dentistry on Musselburgh, dentists ran two surgeries during the day and treated 17 patients.
Practice owner and dentist Bridget Heer said there were all sorts of reasons why people might not go to the dentist regularly, but financial struggles were a major factor. The practice manager of the clinic had called the patients, to do "triage" on them before they arrived, so they could decide how best to allocate time. The most serious procedure was the removal of a tooth due to an infection, Ms Heer said.
A Southern Cross spokesman said other clinics involved were Mornington Dental, Knox Dental Care and Burns House Dental Specialists. The free dental treatment was a one-off — but Ms Heer said her clinic was willing to help people go through the correct procedure to get Work and Income funding for follow-up procedures. The dental association had supplied a "little pack" containing a toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss for each patient.
Those booking in to the clinic ranged from students to elderly people, but perhaps because the dental day was advertised on social media the clinic tended to attract younger people. Among them was 22-year-old Jasmine Wright, an anatomy student at the University of Otago who had not had a checkup for four years. She acknowledged it was important to go to the dentist "every so often" but said since she left high school the cost had put her off. She ended up getting three fillings, a clean and one other procedure done at the Musselburgh clinic.