Thousands call for more affordable dental care in petition delivered to Parliament

A petition from more than 10,000 people calling for more affordable dental care was delivered to Parliament today. 

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More than 10,000 supporters signed the document. Source: 1 NEWS

It came as Otago University revealed its brand new multi-million dollar training facility in Dunedin.

The country's only dentist school is open again after a $130 million rebuild.

"I think today New Zealand's opening the most up-to-date, state-of-the-art dentistry school in the world, and almost certainly the largest in the southern hemisphere," said Paul Brunton, pro-vice-chancellor of health sciences at Otago University. 

The facility features 214 dental chairs, an operating theatre and new state-of-the-art digital technology.

Among the new features are cameras allowing the patient to see everything close up.

Patients at the school receive dental care from the students at a reduced cost, and they do around 76,000 procedures a year. 

Otago's dental school Professor John Broughton said people in Dunedin are very fortunate that the centre of dental education is in Dunedin.

But many others around the country aren't so fortunate.

More than 10,000 signed the petition delivered to Parliament today, sparked by Hamilton dentist Dr Assil Russell, calling for free dental care up to the age of 20 as well as subsidising visits for communities that need it most.

"This is basically to get the Minister of Health to consider her [Dr Russell's] submission and the over 10,000 people that she's got to sign the petition," said National MP David Bennett.

It's something those in the industry say needs to happen.

"There's such a strong link between a healthy mouth and a healthy body," said Otago's dental school Acting Dean Karl Lyons. "And the easier it is for us in the community to be able to access dental care without the barrier of cost, the better." 

Professor Broughton said the dental sector and Government need to discuss affordable services.

"What has to happen is there has to be a big conversation between the dental health sector and Her Majesty's Government over development of affordable and accessible services to the wider New Zealand public."

Such services would no doubt bring a smile to those patients in need.