Oral care after 30 years without

Dental patient Brendon Hurring and University of Otago dentistry student Jamie Marra. PHOTO:...
Dental patient Brendon Hurring and University of Otago dentistry student Jamie Marra. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Brendon Hurring’s life has just been transformed by a free community dental clinic and he is keen for others to be given the same chance.

"Previously, I wouldn’t smile and I’m much more confident now

"I’m so pleased with what they’ve been able to do for me."

Mr Hurring is grateful to the senior students and staff at the University of Otago Faculty of Dentistry for the dental care he has received.

Having faced other health issues and periods of unemployment, Mr Hurring had not seen a dentist for 30 years and knew his teeth were not in good condition. Over the six weeks that the clinic has recently operated, he has had five extractions, four fillings, three root canal procedures and scaling.

Mr Hurring supported increased dental subsidy funding for low-income adults, because even for many people who were working, the costs of dental care were still too high.

Jamie Marra, an Otago dentistry student who organised the free clinic for low socio-economic patients, has been amazed by the life-changing effect the service has had on the patients receiving treatment.

"There have been tears of ‘thanks’, hugs and handwritten cards," Mrs Marra, a fourth-year student, said.

"We have had patients who have been trying to find jobs, but who were struggling going to interviews with blackened tooth stumps — and they are now walking out from our clinic with smiles."

Of 60 people referred from Servants Health Centre in Dunedin, about 50 were treated.

Mrs Marra and Gore dentist Dr Haneen Alaynan have helped organise and run the clinic in the faculty’s new clinical services building.

Mrs Marra was inspired by senior faculty staff, Prof Murray Thomson, Associate Prof Jonathan Broadbent and Dr Abdullah Barazanchi, to develop her passion for better access to oral healthcare for all New Zealanders.

Prof Broadbent estimated the patients had received dental care which might have cost nearly $70,000 in private practice

and said the clinic highlighted a community dental care funding shortfall.

"The fact that so many people need this kind of help demonstrates the problems with accessing dental care in New Zealand," he said.

This charitable volunteering showed positive "social accountability" among senior Otago dental students, as well as qualified dentists and assistants, but charity was not a sustainable way to do public health, he said.

This clinic was not routinely provided by the faculty, but it was contracted to provide publicly funded dental services for the Southern District Health Board and some of these contracts were targeted to disadvantaged and low-income groups.

Comments

About time dentistry was funded the same as medical care.