A trip to the dentist can take a big bite out of your back pocket.

A visit to the dentist is free until you turn 18. After that, most people have to pay the full cost of treatment – and it’s not cheap.

The New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA) has published the results of its March 2013 survey of fees, which summarises responses from more than 400 dentists. Half of these dentists charged between $50 and $80 just to examine your teeth. An examination with x-rays added $30 to the fee.

Fees survey

Treatment Fees ($)
Lower Midpoint Upper
Basic maintenance
Hygienist (30 minutes) 80 92 115
Dentist: Examination only 50 65 80
Dentist: Examination, x-rays 80 95 110
Dentist: Examination, scale and polish 88 105 125
Dentist: Examination, x-rays, scale and polish 110 135 165
Amalgam filling, 1 surface 110 140 170
Composite filling, 1 surface 130 160 190
Amalgam filling, 2 surfaces 155 180 220
Porcelain veneer 988 1200 1324
Composite crown 280 350 433
Porcelain crown (porcelain fused to metal - PFM) 1200 1273 1400
Ceramic crown 1200 1300 1495

Guide to the table
FEES are from a national survey conducted by the New Zealand Dental Association in March 2013. The survey asked about “standard” (no complications) fees. GST is included. LOWER is the lower quartile: 25 percent of fees were lower than this. MIDPOINT is the middle point. UPPER is the upper quartile: 25 percent of fees were higher than this.


There can be a wide variation in charges (and Auckland fees were generally the highest). But you can find two dentists in the same city charging very different rates. Why?

Many factors influence a dentist’s hourly rates. One is the level of hi-tech: the dentist needs to cover the cost of expensive new equipment. Dr David Crum, CEO of the NZDA, says “costs, depending on how advanced the disease and the particular treatment option that a patient selects, will vary greatly. ... Dentists work in a competitive environment, and base their charges on the need to cover their business costs and after that earn incomes similar to doctors and other health professionals.”

So it pays to look after your teeth. Dr Crum advises regular check-ups to diagnose problems early, and taking a preventive approach through twice daily cleaning using a fluoride toothpaste and having a sensible diet. You’ll find advice on oral health for infants, children, teens and adults – plus the full results of the fees survey – on the NZDA website www.healthysmiles.org.nz.