Free dental care for all New Zealanders is "absolutely not possible" and instead a targeted, subsidised approach is needed, the president of the New Zealand Dental Association says.
"There's no such thing as free dental care - someone has to pay for it," Dr Katie Ayers told 1 NEWS.
The latest 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll showed almost two-thirds of Kiwis were in support of the Government prioritising free dental care.
Sixty-four per cent were in favour, 33 per cent against and three per cent did not know.
All Kiwis under age 18 are currently able to have free dental care.
Dr Ayers said providing free dental care for all would cost "well in excess of $1 billion", with the price tag falling back on the Government - "then by default the taxpayer".
"There’s no option but to have a targeted dental approach."
Dr Ayers said the dental association was proposing subsidising a targeted approach for those who "really need it".
Currently, WINZ can generally provide $300 grants for urgent dental treatment to people who can qualify.
"In reality, [a $300 grant] is not going to fix a mouth with a lot of work to do," Dr Ayers said.
She said it was a common problem that the grants could not cover the entirety of treatment needed, with only some cases able to borrow more.
Dr Ayers said it could be linked in with a sugar tax, but even that would not be sufficient to provide care for everyone.
Dr Assil Russell of Revive a Smile said the Government needed to step up - but agreed a subsidised approach was the way to go.
"At the moment, people who are not able to access the dentist because of cost are relying on charities to get care," she said. "We're not able to meet the demand.
"Universal dental care is a nice thought, but I don't think that is something that is achievable and don't think that is something a Government would be willing to fork out."
Dr Russell said a targeted, subsidised approach would make a "huge difference to a lot of people's lives".