Who is entitled to free dental visits?

Children and young people (aged 17 years or under) can receive free dental checks and standard treatments (e.g. x-rays, cleaning, fillings, extraction) if:

  • they meet the eligibility criteria for publicly funded health services,
  • they are enrolled in the Community Oral Health Service, and
  • their oral health provider (e.g. dentist) has a contract with the local District Health Board (DHB).  

More information about publicly funded dental care for children and young people is on the Ministry of Health website.

For adults

Adults generally have to pay privately for dental care, except in the following circumstances:

  • If you have a disability or medical condition your usual dentist or GP may refer you to a public hospital for free or subsidised dental treatment.
  • If you have a Community Services Card (CSC) you may be able to get free or subsidised emergency (e.g. pain relief or extractions) at a public hospital.        

If you need dental treatment as a result of an accident or injury, your costs may be partly or fully covered by ACC.

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How much can I expect to pay for dental care?

Charges can vary widely amongst dental practices so it’s well worth ringing around to find one whose services you can better afford.

You can view the New Zealand Dental Council’s survey of fees, done in 2018, to get an approximate idea of the fees charged for a range of services and procedures, and how they differ from region to region.

If you are on a low income you may be eligible for financial assistance from Work and Income. There is more information about help with dental costs from Work and Income on our Other financial assistance page

You could also try asking your dentist if it’s possible to pay the fee in instalments.

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How do I enrol my child for publicly funded dental care?

You can enrol your child by calling the Oral Health Helpline on 0800 825 583. They will send you forms to complete.

If your child is a pre-schooler or at primary school, you need to give them to your local Community Oral Health Service. If your child is in year 9 or above, you can choose your dentist, so just give the completed forms to the dentist of your choice who is contracted to your DHB.

If you don’t know which dentists in your area have a DHB contract you can call 0800 825 583 for help with locating one.

Not all dental treatments under this scheme will be free - you’d need to pay for braces, for example.

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How can I access my dental records?

Your dental records form part of your health information, which is covered by the Health Information Privacy Code. This means that you have the right to access records of your dental treatment.

If you want a copy of your dental records then you will need to ask your dentist or dental treatment provider, either in person or in writing, and they have to respond within 20 working days. It is not enough to just call them because they will need proof of who you are.

Unless giving the information would endanger your safety, prevent the investigation of criminal offences or involve an unwarranted breach of someone else’s privacy, the agency (e.g. doctor, dentist, ACC) holding your information should give it to you. 

If you are refused access to your dental records and you aren’t satisfied with their reason, or if they don’t respond to your request within 20 working days, you can make a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner.

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Is my dentist entitled to charge me if I miss my appointment?

Your dentist or other health provider can charge you a fee for missing an appointment, as long as they tell you about this charge when you make the appointment. They might do this in the form of a notice on the reception desk or office wall, on your appointment notice or verbally (for example).

Depending on the provider’s policy, you may be able to cancel an appointment without incurring a fee, if you do it early enough.

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I think my dentist has caused me an injury – what can I do?

You can talk to your dentist about it, to find out what they think might have happened to result in your injury. If it is due to poor quality of service then under the Consumer Guarantees Act you are entitled to get the problem put right.

You can also consider the complaint options outlined below.

The cost of treating your injury may be covered by ACC.   

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How do I make a complaint about my dentist?

It is best to speak to your dentist first and try to sort the issue out between the two of you. If you can't resolve it between you, you can complain to:

  • the Health and Disability Commissioner
  • the Dental Council of New Zealand – investigates complaints which are referred to them by the HDC. They can also provide information and advice if you have concerns about a dental practitioner.
  • the New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA) – can mediate between you and a dental practitioner who is a member of the NZDA. Members of NZDA have to follow the NZDA’s disputes resolution process, and abide by any decision that is reached through this process.
  • Disputes Tribunal – if you and the dental practitioner are in dispute e.g. over fees charged.

You may be able to find an advocate to provide you with help and support with your complaint. 

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How do I find a dentist who speaks my language?

If there is a dentist near you who speaks your language, your local CAB can help you find them. You can also search our community directory. If you’re seeing a dentist in a hospital, ask if they have an interpreting service available.