ZB

Good Samaritan offers to help pay for pensioner's $20k dental treatment

Author
Ben Leahy,
Publish Date
Thu, 30 May 2019, 1:03pm
A 70-year-old pensioner has been quoted up to $20,000 to fix his teeth. (Photo / File)
A 70-year-old pensioner has been quoted up to $20,000 to fix his teeth. (Photo / File)

Good Samaritan offers to help pay for pensioner's $20k dental treatment

Author
Ben Leahy,
Publish Date
Thu, 30 May 2019, 1:03pm

A 70-year-old with more than 10 missing and "broken" teeth may get a large donation to help him afford dental treatment.

The Aucklander who did not wish to be named could not afford the $20,000 or more in dental treatment to have his bad teeth extracted and new dentures made.

Luckily, a good Samaritan has now offered to pay or contribute to the costs of the man's dental treatment after hearing his tale on Newstalk ZB radio host Heather du Plessis-Allan's show.

He now has five missing teeth and up to eight that are either chipped or have had fillings fall out.

"It's got to the stage where some foods I struggle eating," he said.

"Things like sliced cabbage, steak and spaghetti I can't chew because it goes into the gaps where I've got no teeth."

"I'd love to be able to eat muesli, but I'm scared of biting on nuts that will break my teeth."

His comments come as campaigners push for greater Government funding for dental care after district health boards have reported struggling with queues of people turning up to emergency departments for pain relief.

Medical professionals are also campaigning for a tax on sugary drinks to combat obesity, type 2 diabetes and rotten teeth.

According to the last comprehensive oral health survey in 2009, roughly a third of Kiwis have untreated tooth decay. Almost half of adults had also avoided routine dental treatment in the previous year, because of cost.

The 70-year-old Auckland man said the last time he needed a tooth removed, he thought about tying a piece of string to a door handle and slamming the door shut "because it was that close to coming out anyway".

But, despite the tooth already being loose, a North Shore dentist near his home quoted between $300 and $450 to pull it out. The man eventually went to Manurewa and had it pulled out for $200.

But now he's facing a further round of costs after chipping another tooth three weeks back, leaving a sharp jagged edge that is cutting his tongue.

About 10-years ago, he was quoted $20,000 for a full treatment to extract his teeth and build dentures.

"I almost fell out of the chair," he said.

While some of his baby boomer friends travel to Thailand and Bali to get their teeth done, the 70-year-old part-time worker and pensioner can't afford that.

The good Samaritan, who also did not wish to be named, said he made his offer because he was about the same age and was moved by how the man's teeth were harming his quality of life.

The man said his teeth problems had come about despite taking relatively good care of them with dental cleans earlier in his life.

He suspected it was a problem common among baby boomers, having grown up in the 1950s and early 60s when there was no fluoride in the water supply and less education about dental care.

Currently about $198 million is spent providing universal dental care and other services to children and teenagers. But adults must pay the full cost.

Health insurers also often only contributed about $400 a year to dental costs, he said.

While the man accepts personal responsibility for his own health, he would like to see more spent on subsidising dental care.

He worries that apart from the inconvenience, his bad teeth may also lead to unseen health problems.

"Unfortunately, the baby boomers are the ones coming into older age thick and fast and they are possibly the ones that need the most care," he said.

The cost of dental work

• Examination only: $76
• Single tooth extraction: $229
• Each additional tooth taken: $138
• Root filling: $735
• One surface filling: $153
• Composite crown: $408
• Hygienist - half-hourly rate: $110
• Full upper and lower dentures: $2557

Source: The average fee charged by NZ Dental Association members, according to the association's 2018 fee survey.