New tech, community focus for dentists

Sign of the times . . . Practice manager Catherine Whitefield, dentists Lye Funn Ng and Yi Wei Ng, and dental assistants Robyn Gouman, Alexa Dovey and Jess Hutton standing by at Clutha Dental, 131 Clyde St. PHOTO: NICK BROOK
New tech . . . Yi Wei demonstrates Clutha Dental’s new Digital OPG X-ray, with Lye Funn at the controls. PHOTO: NICK BROOK

One of Balclutha’s dental practices took time out of its very busy schedule to bring a long-delayed announcement to the community last week.

The practice, which was formerly known as Graham York Dental, has changed its name to Clutha Dental.

Family-friendly Clutha Dental, with their premises at 131 Clyde St, changed ownership during the first Covid lockdown.

And since then, principal dentist Lye Funn Ng and her team had hit the ground running.

‘‘We were so inundated with calls after lockdown that we just could not find the time to officially re-name the practice,’’ Dr Ng said.

‘‘And we had just about caught up, when the second lockdown brought more disruption; and since then, we’ve been going full-steam in our attempt to see everyone.’’

The reduction in routine dental examinations or check-ups and cleans during the lockdown periods had significantly contributed to the high volume of patients needing to be seen — especially urgent and emergency cases.

Dr Ng and her colleagues said they had never seen such busy emergency schedules, despite having over 6 full-time dentists in the Clutha district.

But a well-publicised shortage of dentists in Southland had kept the practice extremely busy.

Gore had lost several of its dentists since 2020, which led to an overflow effect into Clutha and Invercargill.

‘‘We are ethically obliged to triage and manage all dental emergencies that we receive, regardless of where they come from.’’ Dr Ng says. ‘‘But this meant a serious addition to the existing busy workload.

We are very grateful to our local community for being so understanding and accepting of the current reality.’’

Luckily, her sister Dr Yi Wei Ng decided to leave the balmy climes of Motueka and join the practice.

Meanwhile, they had been waiting for new staff to arrive.

Dr Ng had a dentist eager to join her clinic, but they had been ensnared in frustrating, government red-tape, which had been dragging on for over a year.

This meant there was a wait of up to 3 months for non-urgent dental work at both Balclutha clinics, so that emergency work could continue to be triaged appropriately.

Dr Ng encouraged the community to consider this timeframe when booking appointments.

Technology, at least, had made the Clutha Dental more efficient. Both dental practices within Balclutha, which work cooperatively together, have recently procured cutting-edge equipment — a 3-D scanner and a milling machine that produces customised crowns and bridges in hours rather than weeks.

And a digital panoramic X-ray had vastly improved their diagnostic capabilities.

The teams at both practices were very proud of the range of treatment they could now provide the community, and were continually striving to upgrade their skills, knowledge and services to meet the district’s oral health needs.

‘‘Being country practices, we have to do it all.’’