The Fono

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Pacific Oral Health in a State of Decay?

Is Pacific oral health in a state of decay? New Clinical Director of Dental Dr Mowafaq (Mo) Amso shines a light on the disparities between Maori and Pacific oral health compared to other NZ populations, in both children and adults.

Dr Mo Amso says that by far, the most common issues he encounters as a dentist are patients with a high rate of dental decay and poor oral hygiene, no matter what their background or standard of living. Both issues are preventable with education about oral healthcare.

Poor oral hygiene and a common diet of starchy, acidic and sugary food and drinks are factors seen readily in The Fono’s Pacific community, and these two factors are usually attributed to dental decay, Mo adds.

Teaching patients that poorly maintained teeth and a bad diet are causing their teeth to deteriorate is essential to getting them to help themselves improve their oral health.

The most important things people can do are to regularly brush and floss their teeth, use mouth wash, eat a good diet with plenty of dairy products and visit the dentist every six months. These things will ensure the health of their teeth and gums, and help set them up for good oral health later in life.

Regular (twice yearly) check-ups are essential to make sure any problems are diagnosed and treated early, Mo says. However, the potential cost of visits present barriers for many people. But he adds that early prevention is key to keeping the costs down.

“Undiagnosed large cavities often progress deep into the nerve of the tooth needing more complex and more expensive root canal treatment, and consequently a crown.

“Often you see a filling so deep that it ultimately ends up costing around $2000 (root canal treatment and crown) when it could have been fixed earlier with a filling for around $150, or even better, prevented altogether.”

A version of this article first appeared in Issue 7 of Pacific Peoples Health Magazine

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