Dentists look after people’s oral health by treating diseases, injuries and problems of the mouth, teeth, gums and jaw. They also help their patients to understand how they can avoid oral health problems. Dentistry is a rewarding career with good prospects for graduates, making it an ideal choice for students with an interest in health care and clinical practice.
Within the field, there are also opportunities to work alongside dentists — as a dental technician or hygienist, for example.
Due to skill shortages in dentistry and related occupations, job prospects are excellent.
For more information about studying dentistry in New Zealand, visit the following websites:
What you can study
At vocational level, programmes do not qualify graduates to work as professional dentists. They generally lead to occupations such as a dental technician. This includes diplomas in dental hygiene and dental therapy.
At undergraduate level, there is the opportunity to qualify as a dental therapist, dental hygienist or professional dentist. Dental therapists provide children and adolescents with routine dental care, and may refer clients to dentists for more specialised treatment. Dental hygienists treat gum diseases and educate people about caring for their teeth and gums to help them prevent oral disease and maintain good oral health. Entry into both occupations requires a bachelor degree in oral health.
To qualify as a dentist, students must complete a five-year bachelor of dental surgery at the University of Otago. This includes an initial Health Sciences First Year, which is followed by a further four years of specialist dentistry study. The first year of study includes units in areas such as biochemistry, cell and molecular biology, human health and physics. In later years, students learn more complex procedures.
Postgraduate programmes allow graduates to pursue specialisations of interest or undertake research. Options include the doctor of philosophy (PhD), doctor of clinical dentistry, doctor of dental science, master of dental surgery, master of dental technology, and postgraduate diplomas in community dentistry, clinical dentistry, dental therapy, clinical dental technology and dental technology.
Dentists must register with the Dental Council of New Zealand. Most dentistry graduates enter general practice — either on their own or in association with other practitioners. Many also progress to further study at postgraduate level.
Where to study
Depending on the qualification level and dental occupation you would like to enter, programmes are available at the University of Otago and Auckland University of Technology. The bachelor of dental surgery is only offered at the University of Otago.