Smile NZ to provide free dental care for low income Kiwis

Tuesday , 9 August 2016 by Alistair Gray

Low income adults are eligible for free dental treatment from 8-14 August through Smile NZ – a joint initiative run by the Southern Cross Health Trust and New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA).

33 dental practices across 15 regions consisting of 57 volunteer dentists will donate their time, offering free dental work to low income adults.

CEO of the NZDA, David Crum, said that last year the initiative provided treatment to approximately 1500 people across New Zealand.

“While some DHBs and WINZ offer help with emergency work or pain relief, a significant number of people are falling through the cracks and are living with constant pain,” he says.

“Often the physical discomfort will extend to social discomfort and limit employment because of the appearance or odour of teeth. The Smile NZ campaign can make a significant difference to those that need help the most.”

A 2016 Southern Cross Health Trust survey of 2000 randomly selected New Zealanders showed:

  • 53% of people have put off a visit to the dentist

For those who don’t visit a dentist yearly the main reason (71%) was due to the cost

  • 34% only go to the dentist when they have a toothache or problem
  • 38% of Kiwis are unhappy with their teeth - with discolouration and missing teeth being the main reasons. 15% reported pain as the reason for their unhappiness.

Health Trust CEO, Terry Moore, says that while this research is troubling, the situation is much worse for low income adults.

“With Smile NZ we’re looking to help those people for whom dental treatment is a luxury that is simply out of reach.”

Each eligible person will be given a 40-minute appointment for a single dental treatment ranging from fillings, restorations and extractions, to fluoride applications and pain relief. Patients also receive oral health education and a free hygiene pack.

Smile NZ appointments will be promoted through GPs, social workers, Red Cross, WINZ, night shelters, food banks and other community agencies that are in contact with high need, vulnerable people. To be eligible patients are required to have a community services card, a dental problem requiring urgent attention.


The Southern Cross Health Trust is the owner of Southern Cross Hospitals, Southern Cross Travel Insurance and Southern Cross Pet Insurance. Though they share the same brand, the Southern Cross Health Trust and its businesses are separately owned and operated from the Southern Cross Health Society (New Zealand’s largest health insurer). No Southern Cross Health Society funds were used for the free dentistry initiative.

Conducted by TNS the online survey of 2000 randomly selected New Zealanders was carried out in June 2016.