Some Ohakune-Raetihi residents will benefit from a free dental care day in Ohakune on Wednesday, September 18.

It is part of a nationwide campaign that will provide free dental care to hundreds of New Zealanders this month.

Ohakune Dental has joined a nationwide initiative, Smile NZ, that aims to provide free dental procedures to treat around 800 people over two weeks.

Now into its fifth year, it is a joint initiative between Southern Cross Health Trust and the New Zealand Dental Association.


Jane Sherrit, dentist and clinic director at Ohakune Dental, has joined 57 New Zealand Dental Association member dentists from 39 clinics around the country to take part in Smile NZ.

"There is no business reason to do this day, a charity day is for people who can't afford to pay for dental treatment. Dentistry for adults in the Ruapehu district is unsubsidised by the Ministry of Health."

Sherrit said by participating in the day she was providing a service for people in her community who would otherwise not seek treatment.

Ohakune's local Work and Income office and Ruapehu Medical Centre have referred people to the clinic and a scheduled 30-minute appointment for each patient has been booked to treat one problem.

Patients also receive oral health education and a free hygiene pack.

Southern Cross Health Trust chief executive Terry Moore said appointments for Smile NZ were already filled, showing there was a high level of demand for dental care among low income adults.

"Dental care can be costly for adults and is not covered by the public system, except for emergency care from some DHBs and WINZ," Moore said.

Over the past 15 years, Sherrit has focused on minimal intervention dentistry as a member of New Zealand Minimal Intervention Dentistry.


She said the knowledge and techniques she had learned from the group had enabled her to offer a style of dentistry that focuses on correcting the disease that is causing pain and suffering. She then works with her patients to allow them to function so they can chew food well and smile confidently.

"How long teeth and dentistry lasts is very much like the tyres on a car, it depends how you use them, but minimal restoration design, a tailored homecare regime and routine checkups is a successful approach. I have patients at both ends of the socioeconomic scale who are at this point."

Sherrit said she had tried to assist those in her community who struggled to access care due to financial reasons by providing oral hygiene lessons at Ohakune Primary School.

She has sought funding for new drinking water fountains at Ohakune, Raetihi, National Park primary schools and Ruapehu College to encourage them in their journey to adopting Water Only policies for their schools.

"The idea is that a water-only environment for six hours a day offers children's teeth a rest from erosive sugar-sweetened beverages in order to reduce decay to their vulnerable newly erupted adult teeth and tiny baby teeth."

Sherrit is currently working with Ruapehu District Council to increase the number of drinking water fountains in public spaces and sports areas in Ohakune and Raetihi.