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Minister David Clark visits Waikato mobile oral health team at Waipa Primary

Minister David Clark with oral health team

Minister David Clark visited one of Waikato DHB’s mobile dental unit’s in action at Waipa Primary School, Ngaruawahia recently.

Not only did Minister Clark witness a brave young man name Tokotaua Herangi have a stainless steel crown placed on his tooth, he had a quick dental check with Oral Health Therapist Anne-Marie Maikuku. He then spent time with staff and two senior pupils gave him a tour of Waipa Primary.

Minster Clark took the opportunity to thank the Community Oral Health team and Waipa Primary for all they do, saying: “For me getting out and seeing examples of what is working in our communities is really important and a real privilege.

“I’m really passionate about reducing inequalities in health that we can observe around the country. There’s a real chance to do this in primary care, in preventative stuff like the children’s oral health.”

The mobile dental unit is a flagship service of Waikato DHB’s Community Oral Health and this unit was commissioned in late 2015. The unit is fully equipped to provide accessible free oral health care for 0-17 year olds and visits schools and Kura.

Waikato DHB’s Community Oral Health service manager Diane Pevreal said: “The team on the unit have been leaders in taking new techniques and innovative service delivery to communities that need it most.

“We were one of the first DHB’s in New Zealand to introduce a stainless steel crown procedure, where the crown is placed on a tooth without injections and no drilling. We’re really reducing the numbers of children who need a general anaesthetic in hospital through using this technique,” she said.

Not only is the unit advancing more child-friendly treatments, it’s delivering them in a way that works best for the community it serves,  originally being designed with consideration of Kura Kaupapa Māori and wharekura (Māori immersion schools).

The unit operates by its Whakataukī (proverb): He awa Kawe rau he orange niho, meaning; Oral health knowledge and understandings empowering communities – and that’s just what this unit does from its fun-themed unit designs representing Waikato’s river and the importance of water to health, to its welcoming staff who speak Te Reo with the children and whānau.

Te Reo enables this team to provide accessible services at Kura Kaupapa and wharekura schools in the Waikato region, where communication in English can be a barrier.

Anne-Marie said: “You see the transition of a child when they walk through the door and you use Te Reo, even a “Kia ora” you instantly see their shoulder’s come down – that’s why we do what we do.”

The mobile unit is currently working at Waipa Primary for the children’s annual assessments and treatments and they also are accessible to nearby kura, kohanga reo early childhood centres and kindergartens.

More about Community Oral Health for children

Visiting the free school dental service for oral health checks should start at 9 months of age.

Commencing regular check-ups at 9 months of age helps with establishing simple habits for healthy teeth for life such as showing how to brush teeth with adult strength toothpaste and how to keep sugary drinks to a minimum. The service can apply a tooth strengthening varnish for children older than 1 year of age. This procedure only takes five minutes and when reapplied every six months children have protection from decay.

The service also works with schools and other DHB services to overcome barriers, for example the service has a kaitiaki (guardianship) and works with public health nurses to help families.

For more visit the DHB’s Oral Health web page.

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