Dental Care For Your Child

Dental Care For Your Child

Basic dental care is free in New Zealand for children from birth until they turn 18. Enrol your child as early as possible and keep taking them for regular dental check-ups. 

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Key points to remember about dental care for your child

  • baby teeth need to be looked after and valued
  • brush teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste
  • oral healthcare is free for all children until they turn 18
  • enrol your child with your local Community Oral Health Service

Free oral health care until your child is 18

Oral healthcare is free for all children until they turn 18. To enrol them with your local Community Oral Health Service, call 0800 TALK TEETH (0800 825 583). 

Enrol your child as early as possible so you can arrange their first check-up.

Your midwife or nurse will be able to help you to enrol your baby. The service is free and supports you and your whānau to care for your child's teeth.

How to enrol your child for free oral health care 

Call 0800 TALK TEETH (0800 825 583) to enrol your child. The Talk Teeth team will help guide you through the process, and send you the right forms to fill in.  

If your child is a preschooler or at primary school, fill in the forms and post them to your local oral health service.

If your child is older, they'll see a dentist in the community. Sometimes a dentist may not have a contract with your local district healthboard to provide free care to the community. If that's the case, call 0800 TALK TEETH (0800 825 583) and the team will help you find a local dentist for your child.

How often will my child need check-ups? 

Your child's first visit will usually be between their first and second birthdays. Dental staff will let you know the time of your appointment when you enrol. 

It's important you take your child for regular check-ups and do not wait until problems happen. 

Try to book an appointment for a time when they won't be too tired, and use positive language, such as "we're keeping your teeth healthy".

Find out more about dental care in New Zealand. 

Watch a video about free oral health care for children in New Zealand (Bee Healthy Regional Dental Service, Wellington). Call 0800 TALK TEETH to enrol your child or book an appointment with your local oral health service.

Standard treatment

Standard treatments are free and include:

  • checking teeth for decay and looking at the gums and mouth for any problems
  • X-rays used to find tooth decay and other problems that can't be seen
  • fluoride treatment, which helps make the surface of the teeth more resistant to decay
  • fissure sealants, which are a thin layer of white filling, painted onto teeth that are at risk of developing tooth decay
  • cleaning the plaque, staining and tartar from teeth
  • fillings to restore teeth that have been impacted by tooth decay
  • removing teeth that have been badly impacte by tooth decay

If your child needs extra treatments, you'll be referred to another oral health service provider.

Many treatments will still be free, but you'll need to pay for some treatments - such as orthodontics (which includes braces on teeth).

Talk to your local oral health service about the costs and payment options.

5 steps to protect your child's smile

Healthy teeth = a healthy smile. Follow these 5 steps to protect your child’s smile.

  1. Brush teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
  2. Have regular dental check-ups.
  3. Lift the lip every month to check for signs of tooth decay (holes).
  4. Choose healthy snacks.
  5. Drink water or milk.

Caring for your child's teeth

Your child's teeth are at risk of tooth decay (holes) as soon as their teeth appear – this is usually at around 6 months. Tooth decay is easy to prevent by:

  • brushing your child's teeth twice a day with regular-strength fluoride toothpaste
  • ensuring that your child has a healthy diet that is low in sugar
  • ensuring that your child has regular dental check-ups from an early age

Your Well Child Tamariki Ora nurse will regularly check your child's teeth and talk to you about how to keep them healthy. Click on one of the buttons below for more advice on caring for your child's teeth:

Find out how to care for your baby's teeth

Find out how to care for your toddler and pre-schooler's teeth

Find out how to care for the teeth of children aged between 5 and 18

See KidsHealth's section on teeth

Acknowledgements

The content on this page is largely based on the Ministry of Health webpage 'Publicly funded dental care'.

It has also been reproduced from the pregnancy and kids section of the Ministry of Health's website.

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This page last reviewed 29 April 2022.

Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 any time of the day or night for free health advice when you need it