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Boys Girls Club Health Wellness Screening Gateway Technical College 17 Feb 2017 CC BY NC ND 2.0

How's your smile?

Some adolescents are missing out on the free oral health care they're entitled to.

New Zealand children are entitled to free basic dental care from birth until they begin high school. This service is provided at Community Oral Health Service clinics and mobile dental units, one of which visits Tapanui twice a year. Our Nursing students discovered that the oral health of adolescents in Tapanui was poor and investigated the reasons for this.

New Zealand adolescents are also entitled to free basic dental care, from Year 9 until their 18th birthday, regardless of whether they are at school or not. But the Adolescent Oral Health Service is entirely separate, and the students found there was no transition for children from one to the other when they finish Year 8. Instead parents are expected to know about this service and to take the initiative to enrol their adolescents with a dentist in order to access the continued free care. The result is that many adolescents fall through the gap, and do not receive the continuous dental care that they are entitled to.

The students were motivated to write a submission to David Clark, the Minister of Health, recommending that the services for children and adolescents be better integrated, to improve the oral health of adolescents in New Zealand.

November 2019

Image credit: Gateway Technical College, used under Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-ND 2.0