Visiting a dentist

A range of basic preventive, treatment and specialist dental services are available to eligible children and adolescents up until 18 years of age. A limited range of services for some adults is publicly funded. The main publicly funded services are outlined below.

Eligibility Direction

You must meet one of the criteria in the Eligibility Direction to be considered for these publicly funded services. If you are not eligible, you are liable to be charged for the full costs of any medical treatment or disability support service you receive.

To see whether you meet the specified eligibility criteria go to the Guide to eligibility for public health services.

Children up to age 13

Dental education, preventive and basic treatment services are provided free of charge to pre-school and primary school age children through the Community Oral Health Service. Parents can enrol their children directly or referrals can be made by Well Child providers or general practitioners.

Dental therapists provide most services and dentists provide more specialised treatment if necessary. Dental assessments and treatments usually take place in community-based clinics, often located on school sites, or in mobile dental units. Some treatments are not free, such as orthodontics (including braces, for example).

Contact 0800 TALK TEETH (0800 825 583) for enrolment information.

Adolescents – up to age 18

A range of free basic dental services is funded for adolescents until their 18th birthday. Services are usually provided by private dentists who are contracted by the local district health board to provide free services for adolescents. The Community Oral Health Service will normally provide enrolment information at the end of school year 8, or adolescents can enrol directly with a contracted dentist.

Contact 0800 TALK TEETH (0800 825 583) for enrolment information.

Special-needs dentistry

Children and adults with special medical needs (such as cleft palate) or disabilities that make them unable to access normal dental services or who require dental treatment as part of other treatment (such as for head or neck cancer) can receive free hospital dental services. Part-charges apply for outpatient services, but services are free where a patient needs to be admitted (for example, if they need a general anaesthetic).

Referrals are usually made by dental therapists, private dentists, or general practitioners.

Emergency dental services for adults

Emergency pain relief and extractions are provided through hospital dental departments, or by contracted private dentists. These services are restricted to people on low incomes (usually demonstrated by having a Community Services Card). Part charges may apply. Contact the hospital dental department (see your DHB’s website for the phone number).

Work and Income New Zealand can also provide discretionary financial assistance for urgent dental treatment for low income adults. Contact your local WINZ office for more information.

Dental treatments for injury

Dental treatment needed due to injury or accident is funded for all people in New Zealand and managed through the Accident Compensation Corporation. Contact your local ACC office for more information.

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