Almost three-quarters of New
Zealanders say they put off going to the dentist because of
the cost - and some are heading overseas for cut-price
A survey commissioned by Southern Cross found only 31 per
cent of us go to the dentist each year and 40 per cent only
go when there is a problem.
Seventy-one per cent put off seeing a dentist because of
cost, and 14 per cent never go at all.
Dental decay is the most prevalent chronic and reversible
disease in New Zealand, according to the Ministry of Health's
2009 oral health survey.
It found one in three adults had untreated coronal decay and
one in 10 had root decay.
Southern Cross Health Society chief executive Peter Tynan
said the ministry's findings show dental problems have an
indirect cost to society, with one in 10 adults taking time
off work or school in the previous year due to problems with
their teeth or mouth.
"Some people bury their head in the sand and take a
fingers-crossed approach to their dental health. Perhaps a
better tactic would be to invest in an examination to
understand what work you need done," Mr Tynan said.
Each year the New Zealand Dental Association conducts a
survey on the average fees charged for a variety of dental
In 2013 the average fee for an examination and x-rays was
$99, an amalgam filling $143 and a ceramic crown $1338.
Mr Tynan said those on a tight budget could shop around for
the best deal.
The cost of dentistry in New Zealand has prompted some to
look offshore for a cheaper deal.
Roy Watson has run dental tourism company Absolutely Thailand
Ltd for more than five years and said in that time he has
helped about 400 people combine an overseas holiday with
cut-cost dental services.
Treatments cost about a third of the price here, and "the
quality is just out of this world", he said.
"People say, 'well, what happens if something goes wrong?'
Well, it seems that the quality is so high that it just
In December a South Auckland man was sentenced to four
months' home detention after performing extractions,
fillings, root canals and gold inlays at his Mangere home
Sione Heinave Vailea had been a qualified dental therapist in
Tonga for several years but was not qualified to do any
dentistry work in New Zealand.
A community leader described Vailea as the "Robin Hood" of
the community, providing a much-needed service to those who
could otherwise not afford it.
State-funded dental care is available for children under 18.
But little is offered to adults apart from emergency tooth
extractions and pain relief for community services
card-holders, who will often have to pay part of the cost.
Health Ministry surveys show Maori and Pacific people are
less likely than Pakeha to visit a dentist regularly, and are
more likely to have had a tooth removed in the preceding year
because of decay, abscess, infection or gum disease.
Key Southern Cross survey findings:
* 71 per cent put off going purely because of the cost.
* 5 per cent don't have time to
* 14 per cent
* 14 per
cent don't feel like they need to go
* 16 per cent don't like going to the
* 31 per
cent go once or twice a year
* 40 per cent go only when they have a
* The unscientific online survey had a self-selected sample
of 2000 participants and was carried out by market research
firm TNS in September.