Dental hygienist Richelle Terrey says nobody would build a house on sand so why do people continue to be less demanding about the health of their own teeth.
Terrey, who is one of several hygienists working at a Wanganui dental practice, is adamant that maintaining good, healthy gums is something everyone should strive for.
She describes herself as a "glorified cleaner" but her role is far more important than that.
"Why would you want to ignore maintaining good oral health? Without that good foundation you can end up spending a small fortune getting your teeth repaired."
She says one of the key age groups that tended to miss out on regular maintenance was those aged between 18 and 25.
"They're in a cycle of their lives where they socialising a lot, they have to pay for the treatment because it's no longer government-funded and leaving home means mum and dad aren't going to remind them of check-ups or to be paying for them," she says.
"It changes the whole dynamic of good oral health, and leaving it for seven years is far too long."
Terrey says if people maintained regular contact with their dentist and hygienist then they would not face significant costs later in life.
"They can go from needing a simple little air abrasive filling to looking at major dental work and, when it gets to that stage, the costs escalate big-time."
She says parents can set a good example by watching what they feed their children from the youngest age. "Everything is fine in moderation but that's where our society is struggling and has lost control."