Dr Akash Kota, ready to help low-income patients for free. PHOTO/ CAL ROBERTS

CAL ROBERTS
cal.roberts@age.co.nz

A Masterton dentist is clearing his schedule on September 11 to work on patients who need care but can’t afford to pay.

‘Smile New Zealand’ is a joint initiative run annually since 2015 by the New Zealand Dental Association and Southern Cross Health Trust.

Last year as part of the initiative, adults who held a community services card, and had an urgent dental problem but were struggling financially, received free dental care from volunteer NZDA dentists.

Dr Akash Kota, from Masterton Dental Clinic, said he had volunteered his services overseas in Cambodia and Samoa before – “Why should Masterton miss out?”

He is one of more than 70 dentists nationwide taking part in the initiative.

Kota and his business partner, Dr Robert Jones, decided they would set aside at least one day a year to provide their community with free dental care.

The free appointments, up to 40 minutes each, allow patients to receive one dental treatment, ranging from a filling, extraction, relief of pain or infection, as well as preventive care such as fluoride applications, or a scale and polish.

Staff at the clinic will all do their part to make the day run smoothly.

Kota urged all who applied to make sure they committed to their appointment once it was made.

“We’re giving our time and want to make it worthwhile for everyone.”

NZDA spokesperson Deepa Hughes said 78 dentists across 55 practices were giving up their time to see people who needed dental care most.

“Both Southern Cross [Health Trust] and NZDA are trying to help people who are already struggling, by at least sorting out one of their problems.

“Hopefully, we are alleviating some pain or making them proud about their smile – which is very important in terms of self-confidence and what they do in their day to day life.”

Hughes said the initiative would not work without dentists such as Kota donating their time.

“It’s great that Masterton, who did it last year, came onboard again.

“They’re offering a whole day to see these patients, it’s great.”

Across the country, volunteer dentists are aiming to see more than 900 patients free of charge.

Anyone with a community Services Card can apply for an appointment.

Few spaces are left, but to book call 0800 373 376.