Dental costs

13 Dec , 2014  

Why are dental costs so high?

There is an old joke. A person gets a phone call telling him that a friend is in hospital. He arrives and finds his friend lying down missing two limbs. He exclaims, “What happened?! I thought you were just going to the dentist!” The hospitalised man looks to his friend and sighs, “Yeah, turns out they charge an arm and a leg.”

It is definitely true that dental procedures can be costly. However, we at Fillinggaps believe that there are ways to prevent those big expenses while maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Below we have listed some key information on the various costs you may incur while visiting a dentist. The important thing to note is that the expensive procedures, the crowns, fillings and implants are all preventable. Simply put, regular checkups and a solid regime of oral care can negate the need for those procedures.

After speaking to many dentists it became clear that a very common problem is that issues with teeth and mouth are hidden from view. So, you may have something easily taken care of, for instance a simple tooth-coloured composite filling, and not be able to see it so you feel you don’t need to visit the dentist. Therefore, you let it wait until you begin to feel pain. However, by the time that pain has set in that small problem has grown into a greater one, for instance a root canal, which requires more attention and unfortunately costs more.

Therefore, go see a dentist because a little cost now saves you in pain and money in the future.

How can I compare dental prices?

Dental care is expensive and estimates for treatment can be frightening after a couple of years of non-attendance. Quite rightly, patients are questioning the cost of various dental treatments, seeking prices by telephone and visiting more than one practice to get a 2nd estimate.

It is really important you make the right decision based on what you value higher; cost or quality. It is also important to compare apples with apples. No general dentist or dental practice is completely the same. Below are some points to consider when comparing dental costs:

  • Dentist’s experience – a new graduate may be cheaper than a dentist with 10 years of experience.
  • Continuing education hours – the number of advanced courses the dentist has undertaken after graduating from dental school.
  • Practice location – although it is commonly thought that more centrally located practices are more expensive because of their rent, the reality is that a very small proportion (often less than 5%) of the running costs of a dental practice derives from rent.
  • Staff – The great majority (more than 55-60%) of the running costs of a dental practice derives from skilled labour. Well trained staff often contribute to an excellent level of service.
  • Technology available – modern technology comes at a substantial cost. Practices with more genuine technologically advanced equipment will often need to charge higher prices so as to afford the best treatment modalities available to you at any given time.
  • Background costs – laboratory fees for example a porcelain crown or veneer fabricated for a patient can cost the dentist as little as $60 or up to $600. Dental laboratories vary enormously in price, depending on the country of origin of the restoration, the materials used, and (critically) the skill and experience levels of the technicians and ceramists. A crown that is stained and glazed to perfectly match an adjacent natural tooth vs a crown that doesn’t reflect the light well and and is shaped poorly.

What are the average New Zealand prices for dental procedures?

Below is a list of dental procedures and their average cost ($NZ) as of 2013. A new survey is currently underway to update these price ranges.

Basic costs:

Examination, xrays and cleans:

Examination only: 70

Examination & radiography (eg B/Ws, PAs): 99

Panoramic x-ray: 86

Dentist scaling per 1/4 hour: 89

Complex periodontal treatment per 1/2 hour: 182

Hygienist 1/2 hour rate: 98

Tooth removals:

Single tooth removal: 200

Each additional tooth extracted: 117

Surgical tooth removal: 350

Surgical tooth removal with IV sedation by an oral/maxillofacial surgeon specialist: 800

4 wisdom teeth removed with IV sedation by an oral/maxillofacial surgeon specialist: 1,700

Root canals:

Root filling – single root (excluding restoration): 634

Root filling – Molar (3 roots) (excluding restoration): 1,018

Root filling – Molar (3 roots) by endodontist specialist: 1,800

Cast Post and Core: 387

Post with Direct Core: 293


Please note: The majority of dentists charge different fees depending on the type of filling material and the number of surfaces the filling will cover (4 surfaces is a very large filling, 1 surface is the smallest filling and 2 surfaces is the most common filling placed):

Amalgam filling, one surface: 143

Amalgam filling, two surfaces: 189

Amalgam restoration including pins: 263

Composite – one surface: 165

Composite – two surface: 219

Composite – multi-surfaced: 282

Composite crown: 378

Glass ionomer – one surface: 139

Fissure sealant – one tooth: 67


All Ceramic crown: 1,338

Porcelain laminate veneer: 1,165

PFM crown: 1,298

3 – unit anterior bridge: 3,536


Implant, single tooth – superstructure: 2,804

Implant (surgical component): 2,796


Full upper and lower dentures: 2,256

Acrylic partial – one tooth: 720

Metal partial – one tooth: 1,651

Denture reline – heat processed: 399

Additional procedures:

Whitening: 450

Night guard: 450

Invisalign: 8,000

Orthodontic metal braces: 6,500

Orthodontic ceramic braces: 7,000

Specialist consultations: 100


To find a dentist or dental specialist near you who can provide an estimate on treatment costs visit

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