I have a confession to make.

It's been 12 years since my last dentist visit.

Just uttering those words makes me cringe in shame, but the truth is, I just cannot afford it.

There's only one wage coming into my household, which doesn't stretch to hundreds or thousands of dollars in dental treatment.


Oral health gets pushed right to the bottom of the priority list and will probably remain there for the foreseeable future - unless (touch wood) I get a cavity or something else that causes me pain.

I haven't been to a dentist since I was in high school, when it was free.

It appears I'm far from alone in this.

The Otago Daily Times recently investigated what they described as a national oral health crisis: "We get subsidised doctors' visits and free hospital care. But turn 18, and most of us spend the rest of our lives either paying through the mouth for dentists or suffering the consequences," the article began.

The paper talked to people who had avoided the dentist for years because of the cost, waiting until the pain was unbearable and they had no other choice.

One man in the article put off a visit for eight years. A check-up, filling and clean cost him $645 - and he still needed more work.

That's more than a week's wage for many people.

In the ODT article, a dentist responded: "Running a dental surgery is like running a mini hospital. There's registration fees, staff, sterilisation, materials cost. A dental chair is upwards of $70,000 ... When they go see a GP and they pay $60-odd for a consultation, there's a larger hidden fee covered by the Government.''


The state of your teeth can have a huge impact on your overall health. Gum disease, for instance, is linked to many other health problems throughout the body.

It's a worry that fewer people are able to look after their oral health and I think it is going to lead to a huge burden on our health system in years to come.

I think it would be far better for the country if dentistry was subsidised in our existing health system.

After all, you can't be healthy with rotting teeth.