Terrible teeth trouble root of woman's dramatic weight loss

The jeans Lee-anne wore went from a size 12 to eight in in three weeks (supplied)
The jeans Lee-anne wore went from a size 12 to eight in in three weeks (supplied)

A Rotorua woman who has lost 20kg because of severe tooth decay is calling for the Government to "up their game" and introduce better subsidies for adults struggling to pay for dental treatment.

Lee-anne, who did not want her surname published, says the cost of teeth repair in New Zealand is "absolutely shocking" and many adults are put off by the price.

She has been forced to have the majority of her teeth pulled out over the past 10 years because she couldn't afford to deal with the severe decay and says it's taking over her life.

"I've lost so much weight due to my teeth. I've gone from 73kgs down to 53kgs and ten of those were lost this month," says Lee-anne.

Terrible teeth trouble root of woman's dramatic weight loss

"I bought new jeans and within three weeks they were falling off me. I had gone from a size 12 to eight and thought there was something seriously wrong with me, like I had cancer or something, but the doctor ruled that out and said it's because of my teeth."

The 40-year-old single mother, who has two teenagers, says she struggles to eat because the pain is so severe.

"I mash my food, wake up feeling physically sick to my stomach, am too embarrassed to smile and my mouth smells - it's absolutely horrible.

"At the moment I only have seven remaining teeth at the top. Four of them are broken and I get an abscess at least once a week in one of them which I am forced to pop every time."

Terrible teeth trouble root of woman's dramatic weight loss

Lee-anne says the problems began when she lost a lot of calcium during pregnancy 17 years ago, and noticed her teeth breaking and falling apart. It's especially problematic as she works as a sales assistant and fears she will no longer be able to work if she's left with just gums.

"I put my children first and make sure they have food in their belly, a roof over their head and school fees paid for.

"I don't have 20 or 30 dollars to put aside at the end of a pay for the dentist so I've just been getting them pulled out each time they get so severe."

Like many New Zealanders, Lee-anne has a Work and Income community services card which generally covers emergency dental care treatment like teeth removals and up to $300 a year.

But she says it simply doesn't come close to the cost of on-going maintenance and fears dentistry is quickly becoming a luxury Kiwis can no longer afford.

"It's an issue that a lot of New Zealanders face. It's shocking to see how many people have terrible teeth and people don't realise that your teeth can cause heart disease, blood poisoning. I know someone who has heart problems as a result of his teeth.

"Our government needs to realise that the cost of dental care is so extravagant, especially for the low- and middle-income families. They need to bring in more than just the subsidies for community services card or the situation will just keep getting worse."

The Ministry of Health says the Government currently spends around $199 million each year on oral health services provided or funded by District Health Boards and its priority is to improve the oral health of children and adolescents.