First for NZ; dental care for eligible hapu māmā

21 October 2017

Moana Reedy getting her teeth checked

Moana Reedy getting her teeth checked by Dr Nitish Surathu

Helping pregnant mums get good dental care has been shown to improve the birth weight of babies and supports whānau to take better care of their teeth.

A new service, Hapu Māmā Oranga Niho, has been trialled through Tūranga Health. In a first for New Zealand hapu māmā (pregnant mums) who are experiencing significant barriers can get free dental checks and some treatment.

The trial launched in March and since then 20 women have been through the programme based at the Waharoa Dental Clinic in Delatour Road (next to Ilminister Intermediate).

The idea for the service came from a thesis written by Arish Naresh, Team Leader Hauora Tairāwhiti Oral Health Services.

“Our research showed that if we change our approach and empower whānau this is more likely to improve outcomes for Māori. This applies to dental health as much as anything. Trialling this service we aim to improve oral health for hapu (pregnant) mums. This has been shown to improve birth weights and instigate behaviour change after pregnancy.”

“We are fortunate to have Dr Nitish Surathu from Amber Dental working part-time for Hauora Tairāwhiti. He is a community dentist who is working one afternoon per fortnight doing dental checks for the mums. Initial appointments are 30 minutes and the focus is on coming up with a treatment plan. Many of these mums have not had any dental care for some time and have multiple teeth issues that need addressing.”

To access the service Lead Maternity Carers (LMC) and other people working with hapu māmā can refer them directly to the Waharoa Dental Clinic.

Māmā can be supported to their dental appointments by Kaiawhina who are providing wrap-around services for māmā.

Three hapu māmā had a Kaiawhina accompany them to the clinic at the launch of the service in March. They have all seen significant improvement in their dental health and have all given birth to healthy pēpi (babies).

Mother of five Marina Te Maera was grateful for the opportunity to get her teeth checked out. Her precious, healthy baby boy was born in June.

“It is 20 years since I last went to see a dentist. I was nervous so it was good to have some support. That really made difference. Now I have had this opportunity I want to take better care of my teeth and set a good example for my whānau.”

Moana Reedy also had her teeth checked out when the service launched in March. She has since given birth to a healthy baby boy in May.

“Without support and help with transport, I wouldn’t have been able to get to the dental clinic. I know I can get free dental care until I am 18 but it was good to have someone there with me.”

Both māmā are already booked in for their dental follow-up appointments and will be ready for their babies first dental checks at the end of the year.