Look after your teeth whatever your age

SmilingFaceChildGood oral health is more than having good teeth and a nice smile – it is important for good health and wellbeing. Our teeth help us to eat, speak and are important for our self-esteem. Baby teeth also hold the space for adult teeth. Starting good dental health habits early has lifelong benefits.

Free dental care for under 18s

Free dental care is available to New Zealand children and teenagers until they turn 18. Children and teens should have their teeth checked every year. Call 0800 TALK TEETH (0800 825 583) for more information.

Teenagers can have a free dental check-up from a local dentist if they are at school, on a course, working or looking for work.

The Community Dental Service provides free oral health services for all eligible children residing in the Canterbury and South Canterbury. Contact the Community Dental Service to enrol or to make an appointment (0800 846 983 or commdental[at]cdhb.health.nz)

The West Coast DHB provides free dental services for children and adolescents throughout the West Coast. Contact the West Coast Oral Health Service for more information (03 769 7710 or 0800 825 583).

Healthy Snacks for Healthy Teeth (HYG0061).Tips for a healthy smile

  • Brush morning and night with fluoride toothpaste – for 2 minutes is ideal. Children need help to clean their teeth until they are 8 or 9 years old.
  • Use a smear of fluoride toothpaste for children under 5 years, and a pea-sized amount for 6 years and over.
  • Swish the toothpaste round your teeth before spitting it out. Don’t rinse your mouth with water. The small amount of fluoride toothpaste left around the teeth will help to protect them.
  • Adolescents and adults should also floss every day to keep teeth and gums healthy.
  • Have dental check-ups every 12 months.
  • Choose healthy, teeth-friendly foods.
  • Drink water and plain unflavoured milk.
  • Limit sugary foods and drinks – only have at meal times. Drink water afterwards.
  • Wear mouth guards when playing contact sports.Start brushing baby teeth as soon as they come through.
  • Get support to quit smoking and become smokefree.

Oral health support for under fives in South Canterbury

The South Canterbury District Health Board supports the Ministry of Health’s vision of good oral health for all, for life. The South Canterbury Child Nutrition and Oral Health Promoter works with the community to create environments that promote good oral health from an early age, including:

  • supporting South Canterbury education settings to promote good oral health;
  • co-ordinating the rollout of a toothbrushing programme in South Canterbury education settings; and
  • working alongside other services to promote good oral health, such as Well Child Providers.

Oral health support for under fives in Canterbury

Busy kaiako/teachers in early childhood settings now have a new place to support their oral health curriculum work, including activities, strategies and resources.

The Menemene Mai/Smile online oral health education toolkit is based on key messages that baby teeth matter, and the best ways to support healthy teeth is to brush them twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. The toolkit is the first of its kind in the South Island!

“Many early childhood leaders I talk to are alarmed at the increasing numbers of preschoolers who need surgery. We want to respond as we can to help children care for their teeth so it doesn’t get to this. This new resource looks like a good first step to support us,” says Linda Scanlan – Manager at Rangi Ruru Pre-school Linda Scanlan.

Menemene Mai was developed with and for kaiako by Canterbury DHB health promoters Jenni Marceau and Belinda Smith.

Dental special needs grants now available

Effective 1st December 2022, if a person meets all criteria, they may be able to get financial assistance for dental treatment through a Special Needs Grant (SNG) paid for by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD).

People can apply to receive an SNG when they or their dependent child or children have an immediate need for essential dental treatment. Prior to 1st December, this applied in emergencies only.

If someone receives a Special Needs Grant for essential dental treatment, they don’t need to pay this money back. From 1 December, the maximum available amount increased from $300 to $1,000 in a 52-week period (except where exceptional circumstances exist). This change will better support people in low-income households to meet their oral health needs. People will be also able to apply to receive more than one SNG for essential dental treatment, (up to the maximum $1,000 in a 52-week period).



Download or order resources from the Community Health Information Centre.


For further information, contact:

Laura Brown
Ph: +64 3 364 1777

Julie Price
Ph: +64 3 687 2621

Lists of dentists near you are available thanks to your local District Health Board:

Find a dentist or other oral health specialist near you (NZ Dentist Council).

Tooth Tips from Community and Public Health

Community and Public Health South Canterbury produced a series of oral health sheets to help parents and caregivers.

Order copies of dental and oral health resources from the Community Health Information Centre.

Water-Only Schools Toolkit

This toolkit has been developed for schools to use as a quick and easy guide to how to become water-only.

The toolkit contains information and resources to support your school along the way.

Water-only Schools Toolkit

Page last updated: 03/11/2023

Copyright © 2023, Community & Public Health,