Former Prime Minister Helen Clark is making a plea to the Government to consider universal free dental care.
This morning Clark praised the Revive a Smile dental charity for bringing a free mobile dental clinic to West Auckland. The charity aims to bring oral healthcare to low-income people in high-risk communities.
In a series of tweets, Clark said she was "very concerned" about people who cannot afford regular check-ups and end up with serious dental problems.
She added that access to dental care was not just a problem for beneficiaries.
"Time for a major government initiative on the right to dental care. NZ makes hospital care free - why not a right to dental care? Good for thought," Clark said on Twitter, tagging Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters.
Fully agree. Time for a major government initiative on the right to dental care. NZ makes hospital care free - why not a right to dental care? Good for thought @jacindaardern @CarmelSepuloni @winstonpeters— Helen Clark (@HelenClarkNZ) November 16, 2017
Every New Zealand child is entitled to free basic oral health services from birth until their 18th birthday.
A limited range of dental services are funded for some adults. For example, people with disabilities or medical conditions may be referred to a hospital for dental treatment, and those with a Community Services card can access some emergency dental care.
Asked for comment, Health Minister David Clark did not address the possibility of free public dental care.
"I want to see dental care become more accessible and affordable over time. As I've previously said, I'm concerned that an increasing number of children require hospital treatment for preventable dental problems. "
He said the Government's intentions to tackle child poverty will also have an impact.
"We know that deprivation negatively impacts on children's health, including their dental health. Too many children live below the poverty line and are in material deprivation. Our Government will get on with helping children in need.
"The Prime Minister is personally committed to this, and has created and delegated the portfolio for child poverty reduction to herself."
- NZ Herald