Expanded Dental Grants Available From Today

Health Social Development and Employment
  • Increased Special Needs Grants for dental treatment are available to eligible New Zealanders available from today
  • New criteria means more Dental Treatment covered
  • People can now receive more than one grant in a year (any 52-week period), up to the maximum of $1,000
  • Recent increases to income thresholds mean more people are eligible for support

Changes to Special Needs Grant limits for dental treatment come into force today.  This change was announced in Budget 2022 and will help more people get access to much-needed dental treatment earlier.

“Increasing dental grants and changing the criteria was a key manifesto commitment and today we are delivering on our promise,” Minister for Social Development and Employment Carmel Sepuloni said.

“In Budget 2022 we also increased the income thresholds for hardship assistance which means low income working people may also be eligible for support.

“This is the first time in 25 years the grant has been increased, and we have invested $125.804 million over four years to achieve this.

“Dental care is something that can be put off due to affordability difficulties, especially for low-income households.  

“We know that issues with dental health have a negative impact on people’s general health, financial health, ability to work, and quality of life. 

“This change will contribute to an improved quality of life for people.”

Health Minister Andrew Little says the changes to the grant are likely to help some 50,000 people get the dental care they need.

“By providing more help to the people who need it most, and by widening the criteria for the type of work that can be done, we can help stop what are minor problems become major problems needing substantial surgery,” Andrew Little said.

“This is what our health reforms are about – improving access to healthcare earlier, so people don’t end up needing more expensive care further down the track.

During 2021, approximately 40,000 people used the $300 Special Needs Grant through MSD for dental support, and then received an Advance Payment of Benefit to fully meet their emergency dental costs, at an average cost of $870 per Advance.

“By increasing the dental grant to $1,000, it’s estimated that we will reduce the amount of client debt to MSD by $95 million over four years, as more of the cost will be covered by the grant,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

“Criteria changes ensure that these grants can be used for multiple visits throughout the year. We’ve also removed the criteria from ‘emergency’ to ‘immediate and essential’ care. These changes mean that people can get the dental treatment they need before it becomes urgent.

“Treatments that exceed the $1,000 limit may be fully covered by the grant where there are exceptional circumstances, which will be determined by MSD on a case-by-case basis. Otherwise, people may be eligible for an Advance Payment of Benefit or Recoverable Assistance Payment to cover the extra amount.

Additional Information

Hardship assistance supports people on low incomes to meet the cost of one-off immediate and/or essential needs for people with no other resources available to them. From 1 July 2022, the income limits for Hardship Assistance were increased: 


Income Limits Per Week (Gross)

Single below 18 years (note under 18’s qualify for free dental care. This limit is for Hardship Assistance which includes food grants).


Single 18+


Couple (with or without children)


Sole parent 1 child


Sole parent 2+ children


 Criteria for Dental Support

 From 1 December 2022, the limit to Special Needs Grants for dental treatment will increase from $300 to $1,000. This is non-recoverable so it doesn’t need to be paid back. In addition to this, the requirement for the need to have arisen from an emergency will be removed.

  • This initiative will improve both oral health and wider health outcomes and will reduce debt for those on low incomes.
  • The $300 limit has not been increased for 25 years, meaning many low-income people have not been receiving enough help with dental treatment. During 2021, approximately 40,000 people received an Advance Payment of Benefit to fully meet their emergency dental costs, at an average cost of $870 per advance.
  • The requirement for the treatment to have arisen from an emergency situation means that people are not eligible unless they are in pain, which means they must wait until their issue significantly deteriorates before receiving treatment. This change will allow people to receive treatment before they reach this point.
  • There is no longer a limit on the number of Special Needs Grants for dental treatment a client can access in a 52-week period. People who require multiple treatments within a year (eg, to treat an issue that requires more than one treatment) will be able to do so, up until they have reached the $1,000 maximum limit.