Dental practices in the Bay of Plenty have been run off their feet, working through a backlog after being unable to work during levels 3 and 4.
But dentists are fearing for their clients' dental health and their businesses, bracing for a rapid drop as people forgo smaller procedures as a result of widespread job loss.
Only "emergency" work was permitted during levels 3 and 4 by the Dental Council, due to the risk of spreading Covid-19.
The New Zealand Dental Association president, Katie Ayers, said dentists in the region were trying to see the thousands of patients who were unable to be seen because of the regulations during lockdown.
They were currently prioritising those in most urgent need and had not all resumed regular check-ups, she said.
Lumino the Dentist Rotorua practice manager Kathy Longbottom said it had delayed cases which had now created a backlog.
This was on top of trying to manage the practice with the new Covid-19 regulations which added to the delays.
She said while some emergencies were dealt with throughout the lockdown, others were done through video consultation which was more to help manage the pain.
"Now we're trying to catch up."
Like other dentists, she expected a drop in the number of people coming in for treatment despite the various options of paying which could be organised.
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"Dentistry is not that affordable for your low to middle-income earner anyways," she said.
She expected more people would come in qualifying for treatment paid for by Work and Income, but this qualification would only be for emergency work.
"It's the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff."
Team Dental Tauranga operations manager Sarah Fuller said dentists had been working non-stop for the last 10 days through a backlog for the next week.
"We're also anticipating there will be a dive really soon."
She said people were struggling financially due to Covid-19 and they expected non-essential dental care would take a backseat.
"That's the stuff we see as essential ... like the check-ups, dential hygienists, having the filling fixed that doesn't hurt yet."
She said this would "hugely" impact the business and strict consideration was needed to ensure the service could survive for patients as well as employees.
"We're having to be very careful moving forward about our expenditure, what we're spending money on, our hours and our rosters."
She said ensuring general check-ups were up-to-date would prevent heavy expenses down the track.
Lakes District Health Board received 92 phone calls for emergency dental services during levels 3 and 4 with a range of emergencies from toothache and mouth pain to lost fillings and broken teeth.
A spokeswoman said callers were referred to the most appropriate service which included community dentists, the community oral health service and the DHB emergency dental service.
NZDA president Ayers said members were relieved to be back at work and expected some patients would postpone treatment due to reduced incomes. But there was no evidence of this yet, she said.
The Community Oral Health Service (COHS) which cares for children is now further behind than previously.
"Our greatest concern currently is prioritising those in most urgent need. Many dentists have not yet resumed regular check-ups."