Health services across the country will be reduced today as 10,000 allied healthcare workers strike for increased pay.
The workers, from 70 different professions, are picketing and marching in an effort organised by the Public Service Association.
Oral therapists working for community clinics, which provide free dental care for under-18-year-olds are among them.
One industry trainer said he regularly warned graduates they would still have to live like poor students when they started working.
New Zealand Oral Health Association executive member Sam Carrington said starting wages for graduates were often just 80 cents above minimum wage, causing most to favour the private sector.
"It's a no-brainer really what they decide to choose, and so this is why the service itself is under constraint at the moment," he said.
"It's been going on like this as long as I can remember."
He said children were frequently being sent to hospital in significant pain from dental issues due to the overwhelming demand on the service.
District health boards have been negotiating with the PSA for 18 months on allied health worker pay.
An offer to the health workers was made last Friday following recommendations made by the Employment Relations Authority, but the PSA quickly rejected it, saying it was below their bottom line.
PSA campaign organiser Will Matthews said it had been a number of years since this group of health workers took action, and it represented frustration felt across the professions.
"The DHBs have failed to produce a fair offer," he said.
"Health workers do not want to strike, it is our last resort."
"After two years of shepherding this country through the Covid-19 pandemic and receiving nothing for it, these workers have had enough."
DHB spokesperson and Hawke's Bay DHB chief executive spokesperson Keriana Brooking said the DHBs respected worker's right to protest, but thought the offer made on Friday was "decent."
"We understand that the PSA negotiators have not put that out to their members - we would like them to do so," she said.
Brooking said they were working constructively with the PSA, and looked forward to settling the dispute.
But the squeeze would be felt across health services today. Brooking said a number of appointments had been rescheduled, and some services would be reduced to their 'life-preserving' minimum.
She said it was difficult to predict the full effect of the strike because of the range of services performed by allied health workers.