Look after your teeth whatever you age

SmilingFaceChildGood oral health is more than having good teeth and a nice smile – it is important for good health and wellbeing. 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. Call 0800 TALK TEETH (0800 825 583) for more information. You can also email freedentalcare[at]cdhb.health.nz if you live in Canterbury.

Children and teens should have their teeth checked each year. Teenagers can have a free check from a 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 if you are new to Canterbury or South Canterbury (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).

Tips for a healthy smile

  • Start brushing baby teeth as soon as they come through.
  • Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste – for 2 minutes is ideal.
  • Don’t rinse your mouth with water. Swish the toothpaste round your teeth before spitting it out.
  • Have a regular dental check-up with a dentist or dental nurse.
  • Choose healthy, teeth-friendly snacks.
  • Drink water and plain unflavoured milk.
  • Limit sugary foods and drinks such as only having at meal times. Drink water or brush your teeth afterwards.
  • Wear mouth guards for sport.
  • Become smokefree.
    Get support to quitting smoking.

Adolescents and adults should also floss every day to keep your teeth and gums healthy.
Parents should help their children to clean their teeth they are 8 years old.

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;
  • providing one-on-one dietary and dental health advice to families of children under 5 years at high risk for developing tooth decay (dental caries); 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 Mail was developed with and for kaiako by Canterbury DHB health promoters Jenni Marceau and Belinda Smith.



Download or order resources from the Community Health Information Centre.


For further information, contact:

Jenni Marceau
Ph: +64 3 378 6737
Fax: +64 3 379 6125

Hacer Tekinkaya
Ph: +64 3 687 2621
Fax: +64 3 688 6091

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.

Page last updated: 21/06/2019

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