Greens launch campaign for New Zealanders struggling with dental care to share their stories

Greens health spokesperson Ricardo Menéndez March.
Greens health spokesperson Ricardo Menéndez March. Photo credit: Getty Images

The Green Party has launched a new campaign so New Zealanders struggling with the state of the country's dental care can share how it's affecting them.

A Talbot Mills poll commissioned by the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists last year revealed about 75 percent of New Zealand adults delayed going to the dentist due to it being too expensive. 

In addition, the poll showed less than 45 percent of Kiwis had been to the dentist in the previous 12 months.

Greens health spokesperson Ricardo Menéndez March said everyone should be able to go to the dentist when they need to.

But "for far too many Kiwis that is just simply not possible. Too many people are forced to put it off because it is too expensive", he said.

"An estimated 40 percent of adults in Aotearoa cannot afford dental care. For Māori and Pasifika, the figure is more than 50 percent.

"When people cannot get the dental care they need, we know it can cause other health problems such as heart attacks, diabetes and strokes.

"Disparities in the accessibility of oral health care in Aotearoa are clear and they are unfair."

Labour has previously ruled out free dental care for adults. Speaking to Newshub Nation ahead of the 2020 election, then-Health Minister Chris Hipkins - now the Prime Minister - said he didn't think "in the current economic environment that's a debate we're in a position to have".    

Fast-forward to May 2022, a Newshub-Reid Research poll revealed most New Zealanders - 83.7 percent - wanted the Government to spend more on dental care. 

At the time, then-Health Minister Andrew Little noted the Government supported people with dental care up to the age of 18.

"What happens after that, I think there is a lot of room for improvement," he admitted.

Little said it was an area the Government needed "to give some attention at some point".

However, Menéndez March said the inequity needed fixing.

"We know that thousands across Aotearoa will be familiar with the experience of having to drain their savings, borrow money or just put off dental care because of the cost.

"Today we're telling you we want to hear your stories. Sharing your story with us is the first step in fixing the inequity in oral health care in Aotearoa."

The link to the campaign can be found here.