The Northland DHB's new mobile dental unit was blessed, officially named Kotare, last week, and is now ready to go to work.
The blessing was facilitated by NDHB kaumatua Te Ihi Tito and his team, who acknowledged the contribution and support kaumatua Hare Rihari had given over many years to the oral health service prior to his death recently.
A study involving 27,333 children aged 5 and over from Northland and Auckland found 40.9 per cent of the children had caries, with more than three teeth affected by decay in 20 per cent.
The DHB's principal dental officer and oral health adviser, Neil Croucher, said spending time in Kohukohu and Pukenui the previous week had reminded him how essential MDUs were for the region.
"If we don't take oral health services to schools, many children in the region will just miss out," he said.
"We know MDUs work to support our model of care, because we have school-age enrolment and treatment completion rates around 90 per cent, irrespective of locality."
"Our efforts and achievements mean almost all our enrolled children receive timely preventive and restorative services. Achieving good oral health profoundly improves your quality of life," Croucher said.
One key objective was to ensure that all children had pain-free, sepsis-free, functional and aesthetic dentitions, enabling them to function, learn, smile and sleep better, all of which contributed to raising their self-esteem.
Another key objective was to prevent dental disease in the first place, which was much harder to achieve, given that most of the contributing and preventive factors for dental decay were found within the home.
He believed that water fluoridation could be of significant and profound preventive benefit, along with further roll-out of community-based and supervised school-based fluoride tooth brushing and fluoride varnish programmes.
Meanwhile a "beautiful new MDU doesn't just appear from nowhere", Croucher said, thanking the many people who had played a part in making it happen.