Dental Costs in New Zealand: Why is it so expensive?

Posted on July 2, 2019


There's no denying that a huge barrier between Kiwis receiving the basic dental healthcare they require is the resoundingly high cost of even a standard check-up. In fact, a recent Otago Daily Times survey revealed that 87% of New Zealanders put off dental treatment because of the cost.

Dentists are seeing the direct impact this is having on oral health, with increasing numbers of patients calling in with severe conditions that could have been prevented by regular check-ups.

As astutely put by Health Minister Dr. David Clark;

"We have people struggling with Third World health conditions as a result of bad dental hygiene and inability to access the care and treatment they need.''

While clearly a longstanding issue, the question still remains, why is dental care so expensive in New Zealand?

In this blog, we look at the average cost of procedures in New Zealand and how they compare with the rest of the world and attempt to explain the factors that are adding to your oral healthcare bill. There may even be some options to reduce your bill that you may not even be aware of.

The cost of dental care in New Zealand

A recent evaluation of the cost of dental procedures in New Zealand revealed that across the country, the costs were definitely enough to burn a hole in the back pocket of the average kiwi - if they had the funds available at all.

Here's how the numbers stack up:

Dental Procedure


Check up with x-rays $95 – $150
Check up with Scale/Polish $85 – $120
Amalgam filling (molar) $110 – $165
Composite filling (molar) $130 – $185
Extraction $170 – $220
Porcelain Veneer $900 – $1,300
Composite Crown $280 – $500
Porcelain Crown $1,200 – $1,400
Molar Root Filling $900 – $1,200
Single Tooth Implant $2,500 – $3,000


While these numbers were fairly indicative of the general cost of oral care in NZ, the comment section of the article suggested that in some regions, patients were asked to shell out upwards of these figures.

Compared to the rest of the world, these figures are seemingly high. For example, a short, 45-minute appointment with a hygienist in New Zealand can cost 202 percent more than the same treatment in the UK and Bali.

Looking at the comparative costs, it's no wonder that, despite the risks involved, Kiwis are considering taking a trip abroad to get their dental work taken care of.

So why is oral healthcare so expensive?

There are many reasons why the high price tag attached to oral healthcare onshore seems overwhelmingly expensive. Oral surgeons and dentists alike have been raising awareness for the poor state of oral health in NZ for years, and have directly linked the problem to lack of affordability. This leaves the public asking, why can't the costs just be lower?

There are two key factors.


Probably the most significant factor, the overheads associated with running any kind of oral surgery or dental clinic are inconceivably high - and most likely are unbeknownst to the general public.

One Otago dentist recently stated;

"People don't seem to understand that running a dental surgery is like running a mini hospital. There's registration fees, staff, sterilisation, materials cost. A dental chair is upwards of $70,000. My drills cost $2000.''

If you consider the costs of setting up and running an Oral surgery clinic with state of the art technology, such as PIC Cameras, I-CAT 3D scan technology, digital implant workflows and X-Rays, the upfront overheads steadily increase.

The cost of top-of-the-line healthcare is expensive, as the technology required to provide the service comes with a large price tag.

Lack of Government Funding

When you visit a GP in New Zealand and pay your standard, up-front cost of a visit, the amount you're paying is heavily subsidised by the Government. Unfortunately, oral healthcare, for the most part, does not receive any public funding and therefore the upfront costs to the patient are far higher comparatively.

In fact, the best estimate is that $1.8 billion is spent on dentist visits each year in New Zealand. And almost all of it, $1.6 billion, comes directly from patient's pockets.

Only $242 million, 15%, is paid for by the State.

We can't afford it - what are our options?

Fortunately, with enough research, you'll begin to see that there are options available to kiwis to help to reduce the upfront cost of oral healthcare. Here's what we'd recommend looking into if you know you're going to need treatment soon, or you'd like to prevent the problem altogether.

Regular Check-Ups

We can't stress it enough - the more often you're going to visit your oral healthcare professional, the more likely you are to catch any lurking problems in their early stages before they manifest into a more expensive issue.

It's recommended that you have a check-up once every sixth months, even if you're diligent with your oral hygiene and tooth care.

The numbers say it all - a check-up with a professional clean or X-Ray costs between $85-$150, and treatments escalate into the thousands - which would you prefer to pay?

Government Assistance

  • Children: 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). These services include everything from x-rays, cleaning and fissure sealants to your regular check-ups. If you haven't already enrolled your child, you can find more information, here. Of course, the best part of this is that teaching kids a healthy oral care routine sets them up to take care of their teeth later in life.
  • Adults: While limited, there are options available for adults who qualify, to help fund dental procedures. For example, people on low incomes who have a Community Services Card may be able to get emergency dental care, such as pain relief or extractions. As well as this, people with specific medical conditions or disabilities may be eligible for funding. You can check out the list of options, here.
  • ACC: Finally, if your oral surgery is necessary as a result of an accident or injury, you could be eligible to receive ACC cover - it's well worth applying. For this kind of financial help, you can take a look at eligibility requirements, here.


Dental insurance is a great option to consider, as it will cover any dental treatment costs (specified in your policy) while your cover is active. This can really set back any immediate costs and make the treatments you need more affordable in the long term. If you're looking into taking out a dental insurance policy, we'd suggest considering:

  • Making sure your plan covers your dental needs
  • Ensuring that there's a high or no yearly limit on costs
  • Investigating different insurance companies and policies available

With a little future thinking, you might thank yourself later down the track.

Payment Plans

Of course, your selected oral surgery clinic may offer alternative payment plans and options to help you out if you need surgery. Here at NSOMS, we have a wide range of payment options available to service all of our clients' needs.

Interested in an appointment and finding out how we can help?

Request an Appointment

Topic: Dental Cost