Forty per cent of New Zealanders cannot afford dental care, according to a new report.
Dental care was so bad that 250,000 New Zealanders required a tooth to be pulled out every year because of decay.
Shockingly, some survey respondents reported using pliers to remove their own teeth rather than pay dental costs.
The poor state of dental health was highlighted in report commissioned by the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS).
It found that in 2020 New Zealand had the worst record for meeting dental care needs among adults among 11 comparable countries.
There had been a 30% increase in the number of people who needed hospital level dental care as a result of leaving problems with their teeth too long.
The situation was so dire that New Zealand had stopped reporting some figures internationally, the report said.
ASMS chief executive Sarah Dalton said universal dental care should be a priority for the government.