'Gov needs to step up' - Dentist calls for subsidies

A dentist is calling for government subsidies to help reduce the cost of dentistry for everyday Kiwis.

Dr Scott Waghorn told The AM Show dentists across the country would love to provide cheaper care.

"Dentists are the piggy-in-the-middle when it comes to cost. It'd be great if we could look to reduce some of the expenses for a dentist to provide dentistry, and then I reckon the government needs to step up and offer subsidies for those most in need."

Currently, basic dental services are free until you're 18.

"But what happens after 18?" Dr Waghorn asked: "You will eventually go and then it gets horrendously expensive. "

Many Kiwis past this age cut-off head overseas for dental treatment, especially to Thailand.

However, Dr Waghorn says this isn't the answer.

"If you get some reasonably basic work done over there, it can be good. But a lot of these dentists offer extremely speedy and often cheap treatments, and I have so many patients who, six weeks after coming back, have to pay more money.

"For every one patient of mine who has a positive experience there, two or three have horrible ones.

He says New Zealanders don't want "crappy dentistry", they want great dentistry at a more affordable price.

"Looking for an alternative workforce isn't the solution here, and neither is going overseas. We've got 2500 dentists here in New Zealand perfectly capable and willing to do this.

"I definitely would recommend people have dentistry done here. I would discourage people from going overseas because we have dentists here ready and raring to go. The thing is, let's address the underlying issue of cost."

Dr Waghorn says around 30% of his current patients can't really afford their dentistry and have to go on payment plans to get it all paid off.

He estimates that a single chair dental surgery costs around half a million dollars.

"We have exceptionally strict standards here, and that's one of the beauties of having your dental care here. If we can just reduce the costs a bit we can offer some great quality dental care at a more affordable price."