Community, Health

Dental clinic smiles over miles

Mobile dental clinic Seddon patients, from left, Hadley, Maisie and Brodie MacDonald. Photo: Summa MacDonald.

Tooth savvy children in rural Marlborough towns are giving dental therapists plenty to smile about.

Nelson Marlborough Mobile Dental Clinic has proven a popular draw for children in Renwick, Seddon and Ward, with almost 100 per cent up-to-date with appointments.

This has helped free-up dental therapists to focus their attentions in town clinics to help alleviate a backlog.

The Nelson Marlborough Mobile Dental Clinic was due to visit Renwick, Seddon and Ward one more time this year for annual check-ups.

But youngsters have been so good at showing-up for appointments it won’t need to return until next year, health bosses say.

Nelson Marlborough Health Community Oral Health Service clinical director Phil Sussex says Marlborough mobile clinic users keep most appointments.

“Across our whole service only 9 per cent of appointments are not kept.

“We consistently find this is much lower for the Marlborough mobile clinic users and we think this reflects how much our rural communities value the service.

“Parents understand how important it is to make sure children get their annual check-up”.

The Ministry of Health wants district health boards to aim for less then ten per cent of children to be overdue for an appointment at any one time.

In Marlborough the percentage has dropped from 11 per cent in 2017 to just 2 percent so far this year.

Phil says 1856 children are seen through the two-chair Marlborough mobile service each year.

He credits both parents and staff for helping children keep their appointments.

“It also takes the co-operation of parents and the support of schools who host the mobile clinic on specially-built parking bays with connections for internet, electricity and water.

“Our friendly, experienced dental therapists are very much part of the success of the clinics – they go to great lengths to make sure a child has a positive experience at their appointment,” he says.

The clinic usually makes regular 6-monthly visits to each area. The mobile unit can do the same treatments and preventative measures that can be done at the community hub in Blenheim.

Phil says there continues to be a gradual improvement in the children’s oral health and enrolment rates across the NMH service.

“Different populations do have different rates of tooth decay and it is still sugar, particularly sugary drinks that drive this.

“Our preventative messages about kids drinking only water and milk to keep teeth healthy are up against some fairly difficult competition from advertising.

“Hopefully the kids will be passing this advice on to the adults who could benefit as well,” Phil says.

The mobile clinic will return to Renwick, Seddon and Ward in January next year.

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