Two weeks free dental care for Wairoa sees town 'inundated' with those struggling, get a checkup

A Hawke's Bay iwi's annual initiative to raise awareness of oral health is experiencing unprecedented demand.

The initiative sees free dental care provided for two weeks in Wairoa to try and help those struggling in the community and improve the country's poor dental care record.

"It's a good cost saver for my family otherwise it's quite dear in Wairoa to go to the dentist for all of us," local resident Bruce Te Kaihaka said.

A state of the art mobile clinic manned by volunteers from Lumino The Dentists visits the low income district once a year.

"We are totally oversubscribed. I think over 100 people are already booked for this week we need to keep it quiet that we are coming or we are inundated," Tony Dey of Lumino Dentists told 1 NEWS.

Ministry of Health figures show only 54 per cent of Kiwis visit the dentist when they think it's urgent, citing cost as the main barrier.

"We see stuff that we would call it late presentation problems that have been around awhile that if dental care was more easily accessible we may not have got to that point," Mr Dey said.

Dental care is only free nationwide for those under the age of 18 and the iwi behind the programme, Ngati Pahauwera, would like to see it extended to include the elderly and solo parents.

"There needs to be some kind of subsidy for certain categories of people," chairperson of Ngati Pahauwera Toro Waaka said.

For now they're working to extend the annual programme to the wider Hawke's Bay, to keep smiles bright across the region.

Cash-strapped residents of the Hawke's Bay town are keen to take up the volunteer dentists' services. Source: 1 NEWS