Project makes trip to dentist a family affair

Going to the dentist can be a solitary and scary experience.

But a new project, run by University of Otago Faculty of Dentistry professional practice fellow Dr Lisa Ung-Hanson, is creating some solidarity by giving entire families an opportunity to get their teeth checked in one big appointment.

She recently received a Mars Wrigley Foundation community service grant from the New Zealand Dental Association which allowed her to give some dental health workshops at Carisbrook School, and give invited families from the school free consultations with a team of students and clinicians from the Faculty of Dentistry.

“What we’re doing is having discussions about food, diet, what they do at home with brushing habits, and basically talking about it as a family so they can all keep an eye on each other.”

The project also had some capacity to provide urgent treatment if required.

Dr Ung-Hanson said she chose Carisbrook School for the inaugural programme because it was her old primary school.

“It was by accident actually.

“I went in to talk to the teachers about paediatric dentistry and a teacher told me she had a few worries about the children in the new entrance classes.

“It was a good chance for me to not only reach back into my old neighbourhood, but when those teachers had those worries, I wanted to do a bit more to help.”

She said she had treated seven families so far, and still had nine left to see.

“Unfortunately, I had 44 families who wanted to be part of it, but it’s only a small project and it was a bit of a lucky dip to see who could come in at the time.”

She hoped to get more funding to run an expanded version of the programme again next year.

“I’m quite focused on whanau ora — providing health as a family, rather than individuals.

“Families with young children have parents and caregivers who are struggling with their own oral health, so supporting them will [not only] help our next generation of tamariki, but also have the ongoing knowledge, experiences and healthy culture passed down.”


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