New Zealand Association of Orthodontists offers new public health initiative to provide orthodontic treatment to children in need
The New Zealand Association of Orthodontists (NZAO) launched the Wish For A Smile Trust in October 2012. This new public health initiative aims to provide orthodontic services to New Zealand children between the ages of 11 and 18 who are not otherwise able to access orthodontic treatment.
Children applying for the program must present with a significant dental malocclusion, be able to demonstrate family financial hardship and be willing to undertake 20 hours of approved voluntary community service during the treatment. Patients’ families will also have to pay $10 a week for 80 weeks, if they can afford to do so. Organizers hope the last two requirements will foster the patients’ commitment to the treatment.
More than 50 orthodontists throughout New Zealand are participating in the trust by donating their time and resources to treating these children. These orthodontists are working in tandem with other dental colleagues, who assist the applicants with the first step of the application process ― the clinical assessment.
A child interested in applying to the trust for orthodontic treatment must present a clinical assessment form to his or her family dentist or dental therapist, who will then use a modified version of the Dental Health Component (DHC) of the Index of Orthodontic Treatment Need (IOTN) to assess the child’s malocclusion. To qualify for the trust’s orthodontic program, a child must present with at least two or more occlusal traits as described in the clinical assessment form. As part of the assessment, the family dentist or dental therapist must also record caries, oral hygiene and dental attendance status. During regular, annual dental checks, dentists may also independently recognize patients who could be considered for treatment through the trust.
Prior to the launch of the trust, the NZAO sent all members of the New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA) and the New Zealand Dental Therapists Association (NZDTA) information on the program, as well as copies of the clinical assessment form and the patient application form.
Dr. Peter Fowler, chairman of the trust, notes this resource would not be possible without the assistance of the orthodontists’ dental colleagues. “The Wish For A Smile Trust has been enthusiastically received, with offers of sponsorship and support coming from a wide range of organizations and individuals, including a number of NZDA and NZDTA members,” he said. “The trust is confident that it will successfully deliver on its goal to provide specialist orthodontic treatment to young New Zealanders in financial need for many years to come. We want to acknowledge and thank our dental colleagues for their support.”
The first group of applicants has been received and processed by the trust’s selection committee. Sixteen patients have been selected to have full orthodontic records taken. Final selection will be based on assessment of these clinical records by the selection committee. It is expected that the first of these patients will start treatment in March. The trust has the capacity to treat more than 80 patients annually, and the selection committee will choose two more groups of patients later this year.
“The fact that the patients have to commit to undertaking at least 20 hours of community service during the course of their orthodontic treatment has elevated the profile of the trust in the media,” Dr. Fowler said. “This has helped expose the benefits of the trust, not only in providing a life-changing smile through specialist orthodontic treatment but also encouraging the development of the patients’ life skills and their involvement within the local community.”
To learn more about the trust, go to the NZAO website, www.orthodontists.org.nz.