Dentists say they feel shut out by the Government, which still refuses to give clear guidance on when or how they will be able to operate.
It comes after the dental association revealed that close to 20,000 New Zealanders are missing out on dental care each day, with about 45 per cent of practices considering letting staff go.
Yesterday, the director general of health Ashley Bloomfield announced dentists would be able to provide "urgent face-to-face appointments" under alert level 3 but not routine dental care.
Today, Dr David Crum, chief executive of the New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA), said dentistry has been largely ignored.
"As a primary, frontline health-care service, dentists and their patients when compared to medicine have effectively been relegated to the status of the 'poor cousin'," Crum said.
Crum said oral health was an important part of general health and as such all New Zealanders had a right to access good dental care.
"Doctors and pharmacists are still able to work and receive at least some form of income, albeit at a reduced capacity. Dentists are not. Why is this?
"One hypothesis is, that because there is currently almost no government funding for adult dental care in New Zealand, dentists believe they have been left off the radar during this Covid-19 crisis."
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Expenditure on dentistry in New Zealand was largely privately funded, with only small pockets of public spending out of NZ$1.5 billion spent each year, Crum said.
"Last year the New Zealand Government spent over $18 billion on health care, $3745 for every man woman and child in New Zealand. But less than one half of 1 per cent was spent by the Government on oral health."
Even at level 3 with virtually no PPE being made available by DHBs to dentists, they are now being forced to access the very scarce supply from overseas.
This costs approximately $80 per patient, even before treatment starts.
"The reality is that if you are an adult New Zealander, you will be expected to pay for your own dental care and the PPE to provide this safely with limited exceptions.
Dr Katie Ayers, the president of the New Zealand Dental Association, told the ERC she was aware of at least one person currently in intensive care for the management of life-threatening dental infections.
She said the profession was in a "dire state" due to a lack of government planning, support and virtually no available PPE.
"The extreme uncertainty for us is a lack of ready guidelines setting out what dental treatment should look like at each alert level.
"This means that planning is unable to begin. There is currently no indication when dental practices will be able to reopen and a workforce of over 10,000 is essentially sitting without work."