2 Apr 2016

Over-65s lack access to dental care - survey

6:29 am on 2 April 2016

A Ministry of Health survey has found a lack of access to dental care and untreated tooth decay is giving older New Zealanders nothing to smile about.

A dentist showing an x-ray to an older couple

Photo: 123RF

The 2012 New Zealand Older People's Oral Health Survey found those people over the age of 65 that still had some of their own teeth suffered from concerning levels of untreated decay.

They were also burdened with high rates of oral disease and lacked access to dental care.

The report showed that while a substantial proportion of the country's vulnerable older adult population retained at least one natural tooth, they were just as likely to have heavy plaque and tartar.

One third of all older adults that had some of their own teeth had untreated root decay.

Older New Zealanders living in residential care were particularly at risk, with 61.3 percent having untreated decay on one or more teeth.

Many also felt they needed dental treatment, but did not see a dentist often enough, with cost being a deterrent.

The Ministry of Health survey found that within the older age group, Māori and Pacific people were particularly disadvantaged, as well as people living in lower socio-economic conditions and those living in residential aged-care facilities.