3 Mar 2024

Half of all Kiwis avoiding dentist as cost rises nearly a quarter in three years

5:57 pm on 3 March 2024

The high cost of dentistry is scaring people off regular visits. Photo: 123rf

The average cost of going to the dentist has risen by almost a quarter in the past few years.

About half of New Zealanders are now avoiding seeing the dentist due to cost barriers, a national health survey has revealed.

Figures from the New Zealand Dental Association show the price of a typical appointment - including an exam, clean, x-ray and composite fillings - has gone up $98 between 2020 and 2023.

Association chief executive Mo Amso said it was no surprise there had been a sharp increase in the three years since the last survey was done.

He said the figures were in line with inflation and covered the costs of products, staff and equipment.

"With the inflation rates that we've had over the last three years or so, cumulatively it is actually on par.

"It has taken sort of a similar path to a lot of other services and consumer goods that have equally gone up by inflation, some probably more than that."

It was very concerning that half of New Zealanders were avoiding the dentist due to cost, he said, and the government needed to address the issue urgently.

"It's a problem that's not going to go away and it does require leadership.

"Unless there is a political will to change things, half of the people of New Zealand will continue to be unable to access dental care."

Amso said people on low incomes were the most affected.

"The working poor, as we call it, are unfortunately the most disadvantaged group of people.

"They are just above the threshold for a benefit or any subsidy for dental care from government, but are struggling to afford basic dental care."

More people needed to be made eligible for government dental subsidies, he said.

The survey showed the average price for a dental examination was now $89, but that differed from area to area.

North of Auckland, the average price was $75, but in Otago/Southland it ballooned to $125.

Half an hour of tooth scaling set patients back $96 on average, while getting a single tooth extracted cost an average of $291.

Meanwhile, a single amalgam (silver-coloured) filling cost between $201-323 on average, depending on the size of filling required, while a composite (tooth-coloured) filling cost between $231-$378.

In the 2023 election, Labour campaigned on providing free dental care to people under 30, while National pledged $120 million in additional spending on the Child Dental Package over four years.

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