13 June 2024

Explained: Factors and justification behind high costs of dental treatment

Any mention of dental treatment in a social network group often evokes instant sharp, reactions of fees charged.

“It’s a rip off,” laments Dave Williamson . “I paid $350 for a cavity filling recently and I’ve a couple more to be done soon. How am I going to afford this?”

Chris who joined in the conversation, commented “Why am I charged $80 for a mouth examination- with X-ray cost additional, when I pay only $19.50 for my GP consultation? I’m not even sure when I’ll be able to get my tooth pulled out.”

Dave and Chris are not alone in postponing treatment for fear of high dental fees.

According to one Ministry of Health report, 44% of adults avoided dental care and 25% did not take up recommended dental treatment due to cost.

In their Nov 2020 fee survey New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA) noted the average fees of extracting a single tooth (normal, average, uncomplicated) was $247, but a surgical extraction could set you back by nearly $400. Their next survey is due in 2023.

But, why is the dental treatment so expensive? Or, are the costs high because people allow the dental issues to deteriorate and eventually end up paying much higher?

Why dental charges are high?
Income is only from fees as dental care is not funded by govt.

Chris, like many others, don’t realise dental care in New Zealand is not subsidised by government funding, except for those under the age of 18.  

Dentists, however, disagree their charges are over-priced as there is a great deal of value in what they do to help patients, and a clinic is expensive to operate.

NewsViews decided to explore more on this issue, but efforts to elicit a response from nearly a dozen dentists failed, except a couple of them who spoke informally, on condition of anonymity.

However, when approached, NZDA – the professional association of dentists with over 2900 members, promptly responded and outlined the factors and justification behind the fees charged for dental treatment.

“There are high costs associated with the set-up and operation of a dental practice,” Dr Mo Amso, CEO, New Zealand Dental Association told NewsViews.

“Unlike GP visits there is no government subsidy for visits to the dentist. Another key difference is that GP visits are often office-based rather than surgical”. Read More...


  1. No doubt, dental clinics are a business & owners expect high returns on their investment. But fees is still too high & any reduction will not affect their profits.

  2. Walter is right & govt subsidy will go a long way in improving oral health care. But this story has made me realise we need to appreciate services provided by dentists & I myself have been guilty of cancelling my dental appts. at last minute. Tks NewsViews

  3. Thanks for this insight. It’s high time govt starts funding dental care as in UK(where it is part of healthcare & free), & some other countries,too.

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