Dental care

Learn about the services offered by dentists, which services are publicly funded, and how to access emergency dental care. If you or a whānau member has toothache or an injury to your teeth or gums, get help as soon as possible.

What a dentist does

Checks your teeth and gums

Your dentist will do a visual check of your teeth and gums. They may take x-rays. If they find decay or holes in your teeth (cavities) or other problems, you may need another appointment to get those fixed.

They will let you know how much this will cost, and talk to you about payment options.

Cleaning teeth

Dentists use professional cleaning instruments and techniques that clean your teeth much more thoroughly than you are able to at home.

Your dentist may have a dental hygienist in their practice. If they do, the hygienist will do the cleaning and can give you advice on cleaning and caring for your teeth.

Treatment plans

If you need major work done, your dentist may work out a treatment plan for you. This will tell you:

  • what needs to be done
  • when it might be done
  • what the costs will be
  • payment options.

Find an oral health professional

Search the Dental Council website for oral health professionals by type, name, or region.

Find an oral health professional — Dental Council (external link)

Publicly funded dental care

Dental care for tamariki and rangatahi (children and young people) is publicly funded. Once you are over 18, you have to pay for most of your dental care privately.

Tamariki and rangatahi

Tamariki in Aotearoa New Zealand who are eligible for publicly funded health and disability services can get free basic oral health services from birth until their 18th birthday.

Enrol them as soon as possible so that you can arrange the first check up.

Their first visit will usually be between the first and second birthdays. You will be given an appointment once you enrol.

To enrol call 0800 825 583 (0800 TALK TEETH).

  • Standard treatments

    Standard treatments are free and include:

    • routine examination to check teeth for decay and look at the gums and mouth for any problems
    • x-rays used to find tooth decay and other problems that cannot be seen
    • fluoride treatment, which helps make the surface of the teeth more resistant to decay
    • fissure sealants, which are a thin layer of white filling, painted onto teeth that are at risk of developing tooth decay
    • cleaning plaque, staining and tartar from teeth
    • fillings to restore teeth that have been affected by tooth decay
    • extractions to remove teeth that have been badly affected by tooth decay.
  • Referral for extra treatments

    If your tamariki need extra treatments, you will be referred to another oral health service provider.

    • Many treatments will still be free, but you will need to pay for some treatments – such as orthodontics (which includes braces on teeth).
    • Talk to your local oral health service about the costs and payment options.
  • Keep checking

    Do not wait for teeth problems — take your tamariki for regular check ups.

    Your dental therapist, oral health therapist or dentist will let you know how often you need to take them.

    Dental check ups mean problems are recognised and treated early. Try to get an appointment for a time when your tamariki is not tired.

Adults

You have to pay privately for most adult dental services. It is important to remember that there is no fixed fee or recommended fee structure for private dentists. Dental practices set their fees based on :

  • the location of the practice
  • whether it is a specialist or general dental practice
  • whether there are advanced equipment or techniques used to provide treatment.

If cost affects whether or not you can see a dentist, we recommend you talk to different dentists. Ask about the fees for the treatment you require.

Dental services funded for adults

A limited range of dental services are funded for some adults.

  • Disabled people or people with medical conditions such as mouth cancer may be referred to a hospital for their dental treatment by their usual dental practitioner or healthcare provider.
  • People on low incomes who have a Community Services Card may be able to get emergency dental care, such as pain relief or extractions through their local Te Whatu Ora district.

These services are provided by public hospitals or dentists contracted by Te Whatu Ora. You may still need to pay some of the treatment cost.

Some people on low incomes may be eligible for a Special Needs Grant for immediate and essential dental care from Work and Income. 

Special Needs Grant — Work and Income (external link)

Emergency dental care

If you or a whanau member have a toothache or injury to your teeth or gums, get help as soon as possible.

If you have minor problems

If the problem is not too bad, phone your dentist. Let them know you have a toothache or injury and make an appointment.

If you have serious problems

If the toothache is bad, or the injury appears serious, get to an after-hours dentist. If it is normally safe for you to take painkillers such as paracetamol, you can do this before you see them.

After hours dentists

Dentists in your region may have an after-hours service. Your dentist’s answer phone will tell you where to go.

Your healthcare provider may be able to provide relief from pain or infection. But you will still need to see a dentist later.

Your local hospital may provide emergency dental treatment, for example to relieve pain. But this should be your last option. You may still have to follow up with a dentist later.

If you have a serious injury affecting your mouth, teeth or gums, go to the emergency department at your hospital.

Dental injuries and ACC

If you need dental treatment because of an accident, injury, or as a result of medical or dental treatment, ACC will pay. You may still need to pay some of the cost.

If you have already paid for your treatment, you can apply to ACC for a refund.

Paying for your treatment — ACC (external link)

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