DIY dentistry has `long tradition' in NZ

DIY dentistry has a long history in New Zealand. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
DIY dentistry has a long history in New Zealand. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
From pulling troublesome teeth out with pliers, with whisky to dull the pain, to putting in homemade fillings, New Zealand has a "long tradition" of DIY dentistry - and it is still happening, a University of Otago academic says.

Associate Prof Jonathan Broadbent said he had come across patients in private practice and in his research who had resorted to DIY dentistry because of the high cost of care.

"There is a long tradition of people pulling their own teeth out in New Zealand. I have occasionally helped fix things for people after their self-treatment attempts fail."

Dentists were less likely to see successful attempts, but he had seen some in his research.

"I've probably talked to more people in recent times who say that they've done it than in the past," he said.

Prof Broadbent's comments come after Auckland dentist Scott Waghorn called for subsidies to be increased, compliance costs to be lowered, or GST on dental treatment removed.

Prof Broadbent said he had seen not only DIY tooth extraction but life-threatening infections spread across people's faces because of a lack of dental treatment.

However, if dental subsidies were increased to make dentistry more accessible, they would need to be accompanied by price regulation.

He did not think many dentists were struggling financially.

"Compliance costs are high, and dentistry is costly to provide, but not so much for basic dental procedures.

"Dentists do not need help via subsidies. Patients are the ones who need the help."

One Dunedin woman said on social media she had taken out about 10 teeth since 2000.

"I've either pulled my teeth myself or let them fall out while downing lots of Panadol, dentists being far too expensive."

Another Dunedin woman also said she had not been able to pay for basic dentistry for the past 10 years.

"I have had several bad infections and abscesses and simply resort to using clove oil to relieve the pain and hope the problems go away.

"I realise I have access to the $300 Work and Income emergency dental grant but as far as I know, that basically covers pulling the problematic tooth out," she said.

"I'm 29 and having an embarrassing gap in my front teeth seems like a really dramatic effect at my age, potentially affecting my employment and social standing."

People shared stories of seeing their parents and grandparents pull their teeth out on social media yesterday, and Dunedin man John Peters said he once pulled a tooth out using a pair of pliers.

"It didn't end well - it cracked my tooth and shattered [it]. I left it for another month until it was too painful to handle, then had to go to a dentist."

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