Publicly funded dental care

Children and adolescents

Children in New Zealand who meet the eligibility criteria for publicly funded health and disability services are entitled to free basic oral health services from birth to 17 years of age (until their 18th birthday).

  • Enrol your child as early as possible, so that you can arrange the first check-up.
  • Your child’s first visit will usually be between their 1st and 2nd birthdays. Dental staff will let you know the time of your appointment once you enrol.

How to enrol

It’s easy to enrol – just call 0800 TALK TEETH (0800 825 583).

We’ll guide you through it and send you the right forms for you to fill in.

  • If your child is a preschooler or at primary school, fill in the forms and post them to your local oral health service.
  • If your child is older, they’ll see a dentist in the community. If your dentist does not have a contract with your local district health board, call 0800 Talk Teeth (0800 825 583) and we will help you find a dentist near you who does.

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 can’t 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 to 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 child needs extra treatments, you'll be referred to another oral health service provider.

  • Many treatments will still be free, but you'll 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

Don’t wait for teeth problems; take your child for regular check-ups.

Your dental therapist or dentist will let you know how often you need to take your child.

Dental check-ups for young children mean problems are recognised and treated early.

  • Try to get an appointment for a time when your child isn’t tired.
  • Always be positive about dental visits. Use language such as ‘keeping your teeth healthy’ and ‘keeping your smile beautiful’.

Adults

You have to pay privately for the majority of adult dental services. It’s important to remember that there is no fixed fee or recommended fee structure for private dentists. Dental practices set their fees based on various factors such as:

  • 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, the Ministry recommends that you shop around and 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.

  • People with disabilities or medical conditions such as mouth cancer may be referred to a hospital for their dental treatment by their usual dental practitioner or GP.
  • People on low incomes who have a Community Services Card may be able to get emergency dental care, such as pain relief or extractions.

These services are provided by public hospitals or dentists contracted by your district health board. You may still need to pay some of the treatment cost.

Accidents and injuries

If you need dental treatment because of an accident or injury, ACC will help with the cost. Your dentist will help you fill out a claim form. Visit the ACC website to find out more.


Related websites

Healthy Smiles
A New Zealand Dental Association website with useful information for the public.

ACC
ACC can help with the costs of your dental treatment if it’s needed because of accident or injury.

Dental Council
The Dental Council is the regulatory body for all dental practitioners.


Find out more from the Ministry

For more detailed information on publicly funded dental services, go to Visiting a dentist in the NZ health system section.

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