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Jaw-dropping wait times

Free basic dental procedures for children in the region are offered through Te Whatu Ora’s Wairarapa Community Oral Health Service, which includes restorations [fillings and crowns] and tooth extractions.

Until year eight, children can attend appointments at Masterton’s Community Dental Clinic, and up to the age of 18 they can be seen by contracted clinics.

But children who need a general anaesthetic for dental intervention cannot be treated at the community clinic, Te Whatu Ora group manager community and integration Nicky Rivers told the Times-Age.

“Reasons for requiring a general anaesthetic can vary from compliance to multiple treatments needed on teeth,” Rivers said.

“Options available are to keep trying treatment in the clinic that does not require a general anaesthetic, or to refer to local dentists where appropriate.”

When treatment cannot be provided at the clinic or by a local dentist, children are referred to the Mobile Surgical Bus, which currently has a waitlist of 85 children.

The current wait time for paediatric oral surgery for children who have been referred and had pre-assessments is 10 months, Rivers said.

It is a national service and can only offer a limited number of days to the region, the bus is only in Wairarapa six to eight times per year.

“The need for surgical intervention is due to poor oral health in most instances, although for a small number of children surgical input is needed due to congenital defects of teeth,” Rivers said.

“Good preventative oral health care [regular brushing and limiting sugary foods] along per year.

“The need for surgical intervention is due to poor oral health in most instances, although for a small number of children surgical input is needed due to congenital defects of teeth,” Rivers said.

“Good preventative oral health care (regular brushing and limiting sugary foods) along with regular dental examination from the Child and Adolescent Oral Health Service would help lessen the incidence of children requiring oral surgery.”

Rivers said there is also the option of referral to Hutt Hospital, although this often has a longer wait than the Mobile Surgical Bus – unless it’s a dental emergency.

Falene Grimmer, whose son has been on the waitlist for five months, said since her son was referred for dental surgery, an exposed cavity has turned into an abscess.

“He was referred for surgery after a failed attempt to fit a crown,” Grimmer said.

“He had an appointment with one of the dentists who would perform the surgery in March and has been on the wait list since.”

Left with an exposed cavity in the meantime, Grimmer said the situation soon took a turn for the worse.

“He has now developed an abscess on that tooth,” Grimmer said.

“When I took him to see a dentist at the community dental clinic, she said it now needs to be removed rather than just repaired and he was prescribed antibiotics.”

The infection that resulted from the abscess caused his temperature to spike six days after that appointment and his lymph nodes to swell.

After a doctor was consulted, Grimmer said different antibiotics were prescribed, and the doctor said he will likely need to be on antibiotics until dental surgery.

The dental clinic confirmed that Grimmer’s son will not be seen within three months.

Although Grimmer said he is currently doing okay on the new antibiotics, she can tell he is still in pain.

“It’s a bit of a worry,” Grimmer said.

“I haven’t had an abscess myself, but I’ve heard that they can be quite horrendously painful.”

The situation had made Grimmer extremely concerned, and she said she is especially worried about the possibility there are situations more extreme than her son’s.

“If my son’s situation is not considered urgent then what is? Are there children waiting for treatment who are more unwell?” Grimmer asked.

“That’s truly heartbreaking.”

Grimmer said she has considered taking him to a private dental clinic, but due to the cost that isn’t an option.

“I looked into it, and it’ll cost about ten grand,” Grimmer said.

“That’s not something a solo working mother can afford.”

Grimmer said she doesn’t believe the long wait time is the clinic’s fault but is instead the result of a nationwide issue. with regular dental examination from the Child and Adolescent Oral Health Service would help lessen the incidence of children requiring oral surgery.”

Rivers said there is also the option of referral to Hutt Hospital, although this often has a longer wait than the Mobile Surgical Bus – unless it’s a dental emergency.

Falene Grimmer, whose son has been on the waitlist for five months, said since her son was referred for dental surgery, an exposed cavity has turned into an abscess.

“He was referred for surgery after a failed attempt to fit a crown,” Grimmer said.

“He had an appointment with one of the dentists who would perform the surgery in March and has been on the wait list since.”

Left with an exposed cavity in the meantime, Grimmer said the situation soon took a turn for the worse.

“He has now developed an abscess on that tooth,” Grimmer said.

“When I took him to see a dentist at the community dental clinic, she said it now needs to be removed rather than just repaired and he was prescribed antibiotics.”

The infection that resulted from the abscess caused his temperature to spike six days after that appointment and his lymph nodes to swell.

After a doctor was consulted, Grimmer said different antibiotics were prescribed, and the doctor said he will likely need to be on antibiotics until dental surgery.

The dental clinic confirmed that Grimmer’s son will not be seen within three months.

Although Grimmer said he is currently doing okay on the new antibiotics, she can tell he is still in pain.

“I haven’t had an abscess myself, but I’ve heard that they can be quite horrendously painful,” Grimmer said.

The situation had made Grimmer extremely concerned, and she said she is especially worried about the possibility there are situations more extreme than her son’s.

“If my son’s situation is not considered urgent then what is? Are there children waiting for treatment who are more unwell?” Grimmer asked.

“That’s truly heartbreaking.”

Grimmer said she has considered taking him to a private dental clinic, but due to the cost that isn’t an option.

“I looked into it, and it’ll cost about $10,000,” Grimmer said.

“That’s not something a solo working mother can afford.”

Grimmer said she doesn’t believe the long wait time is the clinic’s fault but is instead the result of a nationwide issue.

Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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