Basic dental services are free until you’re 18. If you need dental care after 18, and you're on a low income or have a disability, illness or injury, you can apply for government help.
What you can get help with
The government help you can get with dental care and dentures depends on your personal situation.
If you’re under 18
Your local District Health Board (DHB) pays for basic dental services until you or your child turn 18. Most NZ children will be automatically enrolled when they’re born.
If you have not received a letter or pack about your child’s teeth by their first birthday, enrol them by calling 0800 Talk Teeth (0800 825 583). You’ll go through to a local organisation that looks after children’s dental health and they’ll guide you through what you need to know and do. A child’s first checkup should be before their second birthday.
Free services include:
- regular checkups
- preventative treatments like fluoride or fissure sealants
- fillings and extractions.
You’ll need to pay for orthodontic treatments, like braces to straighten teeth. But children with special medical needs, eg cleft palates, can get free treatment.
A disability or illness
Hospital dental services are available for people with:
- physical or intellectual disabilities that mean they cannot see a private dentist
an illness, eg head or neck cancer, where dental treatment is part of the overall treatment.
If this situation applies to you, you’ll be referred by your doctor, dentist or a dental therapist.
The work is done in a hospital. It’s free if you have to be admitted but there are some charges if you have treatment as an outpatient.
If you have any questions about this, talk to the doctor or dentist who referred you. Otherwise you can call your local hospital.
After an injury or accident
If you need dental care because of an injury or accident, Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) covers some of your dental treatment costs.
ACC also pays some of the cost to fix or replace dentures if you were wearing them when you had your injury or accident.
You’ll need to see your dentist as soon as possible. Together you’ll fill out a claim form and send it to ACC.
In most cases your dentist treats you on the first visit and charges you part of their normal fee. ACC pays the rest of the cost.
If you need emergency dental treatment
If you have a dental emergency, eg you need a tooth removed, but cannot afford it, a Special Needs Grant from Work and Income can cover some of the cost.
If you need dentures after having teeth removed but cannot afford them, you can apply to Work and Income for help paying for them.
If you have a Community Services Card, you can get free or low-cost emergency dental treatment for pain relief or infection, eg emergency fillings or removing a tooth. The work is done at the hospital or by dentists contracted by the District Health Board (DHB).
It’s free if you’re already in hospital. There are charges if you have treatment as an outpatient or when the emergency treatment is done by a dentist who has a contract with the DHB.
If you have any questions about this, contact your local hospital.
If you’re a veteran
If you have a service-related injury or illness, and you are not covered already by the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) or the Ministry of Health, you may be able to get help from Veterans’ Affairs with dental treatments.
Contact Veterans’ Affairs to talk to a case manager about what you need.
If you cannot get government help
You’ll have to pay for dental care, treatments or dentures yourself. Some dentists let you pay in instalments to help spread the cost.
65 years or older
Your SuperGold Card can get you discounts from some businesses providing dentures. Ask your dentist if they offer discounts for people with a SuperGold Card.
Community Services Card
Some dentists offer discounts for Community Services Card holders. Ask your dentist if they offer discounts.