Free dental care puts smile on face of Flaxmere man

A Flaxmere man stepped outside his comfort zone on Friday in pursuit of healthier teeth.

Tupu Tine hadn’t been to the dentist in more than 20 years, until a trip to Smilehaus to partake in their free dental day.

The Havelock North dentist offered the free dental care Smile NZ initiative in an attempt to address the growing disparity in oral health across New Zealand.

Tine said he had a couple of teeth pulled during his trip across Hastings to Smilehaus after seeing an advert online for the free dental day.

The Flaxmere resident said he is not one to get their teeth checked on a regular basis.
“The last time I got my teeth checked was at primary school and I’m in my 30s now,” he said.

“I’m not the type of person who would jump at the chance of getting my teeth looked at, but I just got roped in by my partner. But now I’d recommend everyone takes advantage of these free dental days.”

In conjunction with the Southern Cross Trust and the New Zealand Dental Association, Smilehaus joined forces with 85 other dentists to provide free dental care for one day, to those most in need.

Assistant Bridget Rattray (left) and dentist Chanelle Gibson working on patient Tupu Tine during a free dental care day at Smilehaus. Photo / Warren Buckland
Assistant Bridget Rattray (left) and dentist Chanelle Gibson working on patient Tupu Tine during a free dental care day at Smilehaus. Photo / Warren Buckland

Smilehaus Dental practice manager Rachel Perrott said this was the sixth consecutive year the dentist has taken part in the initiative.

Perrott said the Smilehaus team are passionate about investing in oral health for all New Zealanders.

“While this is achievable for many, unfortunately, those in sometimes the most need are often not treated until they present at emergency departments,” she said.

“By this time patients are usually in acute pain with serious infection that can be at times be life-threatening.”

Perrott added: “The cost of untreated dental disease on the health system and on the health of the individual is very heavy.”

On free dental days, dentists, hygienists, assistants and receptionists work together to provide pain relief, dental disease treatment and discuss how to care for oral health at home.

Tine said his experience was pleasure from start to finish.

“The service was awesome, workers were lovely – the whole experience was great and we were well looked after,” he said.

Perrott said many patients have never been told about the effect gum disease can have on overall health.

“Tooth and gum disease has been found to have many correlations with other systemic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease,” she said.

“Wouldn’t it be fantastic if, like many other countries, oral health care was subsidised for adults and we invested in health rather than just treating the disease at the bottom of the cliff?”

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