Indigenous | Dental

Dental care for Māori ‘inadequate’ with no plans for improvement - dentist

A dentist with a private practice in Ashburton, Justin Wall (Te Rarawa, Te Aupōuri)) says Māori still get inadequate dental care, and the coalition government policies on oral healthcare remain ambiguous.

“Everything is in flux at the moment and nothing has been announced,” he says.

“There are a lot of public statements about what is going to be done with Te Whatu Ora and Te Aka Whaiora but we’re not sure about how that is going to land.”

Pre-election, both Labour and Greens said they would implement free dental care if elected, and Te Pāti Māori’s dental policy is free care for low-income families.

Dental care is free for everyone in New Zealand until the age of 18. Wall says that the inequity in Māori dental care lies with the accessibility to services for adults.

“A lot of talk gets done, and a lot of hard work from organisations such as ours,” he says.

“But it’s disappointing and our expertise is in suggesting and demonstrating different ways of doing things that would benefit Māori and as a byproduct will benefit New Zealand .”

Wall is the chair of Te Rōpū Niho Ora, which aims to be a sustainable Māori oral health provider that champions delivering whānau-centered preventative care leading to orally fit whānau and equity in oral health outcomes for Māori.

Wall says many New Zealanders are often going overseas for their dental care when there are plenty of affordable options on their front doorstep.

“If you get a quote for work in New Zealand, that’s not necessarily what the pricing is for the rest of New Zealand. So if people are looking at finding alternative ways of getting their treatment they should explore every possibility that’s available to them in New Zealand first.”