Former Prime Minister Helen Clark has called for a reduction in the cost of dentistry as figures show large numbers of adults avoid the dentist.
"I hear very concerning reports of those who end up with very serious dental problems because they cannot afford regular check-ups and small problems end up as big ones. Surely #WINZ could be more helpful?" Mrs Clark tweeted.
She later criticised the way dental health in New Zealand is "treated like a luxury" and said greater provisions for low income earners need to be made.
In 2015 80 percent of 15-17 year-olds visited a dentist, but only 40 percent of 18-24 year olds reported having their teeth checked, Stuff reported.
The dental industry itself is sceptical of how more funding for dental treatment could help, favouring a preventative approach instead.
"That's still taking the perspective of fixing things that are broken rather than preventing disease in the first place," NZ Dental Association chief executive David Crum told Stuff.
"Our main priorities have been, for some time, community water fluoridation and the reduction of sugar. We can give better access to care for everybody but it the disease is not prevented we're wasting our time and huge sums of money."
In a Facebook post Ms Clark also admitted that the issue was broader than treatment, and needs to include looking at the damage done by sugar consumption.