A man accused of punching three of his partner's teeth out says they actually came out because the woman bit him.

Rashard Dwaun Magee, 41, a Clinton security guard, is on trial before the Dunedin District Court charged with disfiguring the victim with intent to injure her, as well as breaching a protection order.

His 31-year-old partner Leana Bonney-Eru told the jury yesterday that they had argued over a perceived lack of alcohol before the defendant had gone to drive away.

She said she went out to stop him when he punched her.

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''I've seen this big darkness and felt a smack in my mouth,'' Bonney-Eru said.

''I didn't feel the connect but afterwards I felt the gap between my teeth. It was a really strange feeling.''

But defence lawyer Deborah Henderson said there had been no such punch by her client.

''The defence says it was Ms Bonney-Eru who was the aggressor that night, not Mr Magee,'' she sad.

''The teeth were lost after Mr Magee yanked his arm out of her mouth after she had bitten down hard on his thumb ... he was just removing his thumb from her mouth to stop any pain.''

The couple had been hosting Bonney-Eru's sister and family on August 20.

They had been marking the anniversary of their grandfather's death with some drinks when Magee returned from work.

The complainant told the jury he seemed ''grumpy'' and later came into the kitchen, where she was drinking with her sister, to get his car keys.

Things got ''very heated'', the woman said, but Magee went out to the car.

Bonney-Eru followed, concerned by his level of intoxication.

As Magee reversed down the drive, she told the court, she reached in to remove the keys from the ignition while clinging to the vehicle's roof rack.

She said she panicked when her wrist got stuck and the defendant reversed, wedging her against a fence.

The complainant's sister Christina said she saw the woman trapped and went to fetch her partner.

He helped extricate her, after which the alleged assault took place.

''I was just numb, I couldn't feel anything,'' Bonney-Eru said.

''I swallowed one [tooth] and I spat two out. They were sitting in my mouth ... I freaked out because it was real crazy.''

But Henderson put an alternative scenario to the witness.

She suggested Bonney-Eru had consumed more alcohol than she admitted and was frustrated Magee had not paid her enough attention.

Henderson said the complainant punched her client in the face before he went to the car and she had got into the passenger seat before lashing out at him.

Bonney-Eru rejected those assertions.

While Magee was parrying her blows, Henderson suggested, the woman clamped her teeth on to his thumb.

''That did not happen,'' Bonney-Eru said.

St John paramedic Ken Barton said the complainant seemed ''unusually calm'' considering what she had been through, but that may have been down to the medication she was taking.

She did not appear drunk, he said.

Dentist Dr Haneen Alayan found three teeth missing from the woman's bottom jaw .

She said it would have taken ''a really strong blow'' to knock them out and the denture to replace them would be ''incredibly uncomfortable''.

Under cross-examination, Alayan said there was no swelling to the face or lip area as might be expected from a punch.

She also told the court that for teeth to be removed by biting on a thumb, she would expect to see severe damage to the thumb.

''Human bite forces are incredibly strong,'' she said.

The trial, before a jury of seven women and five men and Judge Michael Crosbie, is scheduled to conclude today.