The announcement of a $28.2m dentistry clinic to be built on Counties Manukau DHB land was made this afternoon by the University of Otago and the DHB. The university will build the new 32-dentistry-chair teaching facility and patient treatment clinic on land leased from the DHB at the Manukau Super Clinic site.

The move has been welcomed by the DHB’s director of hospital service Phillip Balmer as a positive step towards addressing disparities in oral health with final year dental students training at the clinic offering low-cost treatment under supervision.

Health Minister David Clark said he was pleased that clinic would lead to 19,000 appointments being offered – with high-needs adults a priority – to improve access to dental care in the region.  He said planned clinic services would also include emergency dental treatment for low-income adults and dental care for pregnant women.

Professor Paul Brunton, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Health Sciences Division said the project was a ‘win-win’ situation.

“Patients are contributing to the education of the country’s future dentists and, in exchange, they have access to high-quality dental care,” said Brunton. He said the facility would not only provide students with diverse practical learning opportunities but also increase their understanding of people from a wide range of backgrounds.

Work on the new clinic is expected to start later this year with the aim for the project to be completed in 2020 when up to 48 final-year Bachelor of Dental Surgery students will be based at the Counties-Manukau clinic at any one time.

Brunton said the training clinic would follow the same social contract model operating at the Dunedin dental school were patients receive treatment provided by students under supervision “at a highly accessible cost”. The indicative fees currently charged at the Dunedin school are from $35-$65 for a dental exam, $35-$115 for a permanent filling and $50-$90 for a simple tooth extraction.

He said having an Auckland base could also make it easier for the Dunedin-based school to offer continuing education opportunities to oral healthcare professionals in the region and potentially also meet international demand for upskilling dentists.

Balmer said the DHB recognised that poor oral health caused poor overall health and was always looking for oral health improvement initiatives.

“There is a higher prevalence of tooth decay affecting Maaori and Pacific communities within Counties Manukau and having a dental school in Counties Manukau will make it much easier for our community to access the care they need.

Clark said the clinic would also support the provision of universal dental care for adolescents and for younger children referred from the DHB’s community oral health service.

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