Watch: Dentist visibly emotional as he spells out consequences Kiwis face when they don't visit dentist

New figures released exclusively to The Project show the true cost for those who go to the dentist and the devastating consequences for those who don't.

Timaru Silver Birches Dental's Fraser Dunbar told The Project it's not unheard of for him to take out 100 teeth in a morning at the local hospital.

"That's three or four patients getting full clearances."

And he said most of those patients are in their 20s. 

"If you've got someone with 30 teeth and 20 have holes and several are draining pus into their mouth, it will be many multiple visits and tens of thousands of dollars."

A quarter of a million decaying teeth are yanked out of Kiwi mouths every year and Dunbar said people can get so desperate the next best thing is to take all of their teeth out.

"They turn around and end up thanking you for taking all of their teeth out. I get depressed, sorry," he said, visibly emotional. 

And adding insult to injury - the painful treatment isn't cheap. New figures released to The Project show the average spend per dental visit is more than $350, but when treatment requires multiple appointments, that cost can build up.

Government help for emergencies for low-income people has been $300 a year, but in December it's going up to $1000.

"The cost of going to the dentist is a helluva lot more in Auckland than in Timaru. I've had patients who have left and actually fly back to see me."

And the cost is putting a lot of Kiwis off - 40 percent of adults can't afford dental care.

"Yeah, I didn't go for about 25 years, cause I couldn't afford it. The last time was at 17 when it was free. I went back because part of my tooth fell out in a sandwich. The dentist was like 'my god'. And all up I've had $4000 worth of work and I think there is a lot more to go," one Kiwi told the Project.

Another told The Project they didn't have the money at the time so they waited until the pain got "unbearable".

And fluoride or sometimes the lack thereof in Aotearoa's water could be to blame.

"You can tell someone who grew up in Timaru with flouride, perfect teeth. People slightly older or younger who missed it suffer."

And Aotearoa has the silver medal for sugar consumption in the OECD, and there aren't enough dentists to go around either, creating the perfect storm.

"If you got to Gore there's only one dentist, if you go to Invercargill, there's a 12-month waiting list."

There's been a 31 percent increase in hospitalisations due to neglected dental care, and the future isn't anything to smile about.

"The care that is being provided to people turning up to hospital with swollen faces, the demand is going through the roof," Dunbar said. 

"We are going to be one of those Pacific Islands shortly, where we are going to need dentists coming across from Australia to sort us out. That's where we are going in a hurry."