Although dental care is free for children up to the age of 18 in New Zealand, recent statistics in Christchurch show that a number of children are in need of dental care. In fact, one-third of pupils at a local college tested all required dental treatment, researchers report.
The project’s leader, Alan Parris, called it “shocking” since New Zealand’s dental health care programme is free up to the age of 18. The project saw pupils being taken to the dentist via mini buses since they were not showing up for their check-ups, even after being informed that the service was free.
Secondary Principals’ Association of New Zealand president Patrick Walsh said: “Bad oral hygiene was a huge issue in schools, particularly in areas that did not have fluoridated water, an issue that affects the children.”
Walsh said that he had known children as young as 10 years old who were having root canals. “It impacts adversely on their ability to learn and their self-esteem,” he said.
The survey conducted also revealed that a vast number of children were also going hungry. One-third of the students did not have breakfast on the day of the research and 21 percent eat no lunch on the day.