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Career Pathways

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Dentist/Ngaio Niho

A dentist can examine, diagnose and treat diseases, trauma and other problems of the oro-facial structures. Treatment may also require referral to other dental specialists. Becoming a dentist, may also lead on to specialisation, academic research or teaching pathways. Working independently as your own boss or within a supportive setting such as the hospital are just some of the options available after graduating.

There are just over 2000 registered dentists working in NZ, of which 55 or 2.8% of those surveyed in 2009 by NZDC identified their ethnicity as Māori.

Entry Requirements: A Bachelor of Dental Surgery or overseas equivalent accepted by the NZ Dental Council and a current Annual Practising Certificate and Registration is required.

Secondary Education: A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter into training to become a dentist. Subjects of use include biology, chemistry, Physics, Math, English and Maths with Statistics or Calculus. Entry into dentistry is based on academic performance in Health Sciences First Year course, UMAT score and interview with the School of Dentistry Application Board.

Dental Specialists

A dentist also has the option of specialising in a specific scope of dentistry by undertaking further training and certification which involves at least three years of postgraduate study. Specialist areas of dentistry include:

  • Endodontist: Specialising in root canal treatment
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon: Diagnose pathology of the oro-facial structures and carry out the necessary surgical correction.
  • Oral Medicine: Diagnosis and Management of pathology involving the oro-facial structures.
  • Oral Pathologist: Study of the causes and development of pathology of the oro-facial structures, which also includes histological analysis and diagnosis of specimens.
  • Orthodontist: Diagnosis and correction of malocclusion and facial abnormalities such as cleft palate.
  • Paediatric Dentist: Provide management of oral health for children and adolescences. The child may often have associated medical, behavioural, physical or developmental disabilities.
  • Periodontist: Diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the gums to prevent tooth loss.
  • Prosthodontist: Treatment of malfunction due to missing or damaged dentition, leads to improvement of both function and aesthetics.
  • Special Needs Dentist: Providing oral health care for those with medical, physical, intellectual and psychiatric disabilities.

Entry Requirements: A Bachelor of Dental Surgery or overseas equivalent accepted by the NZ Dental Council, current Annual Practising Certificate and Registration.

Dental Therapist/Kaihaumanu Niho

The scope of a dental therapist is to provide routine examinations, preventative and dental treatment for both children and adolescents up to the age of 18. Referral to a dentist for more specialised treatment may be possible.

In 2009 there were just over 650 dental therapists registered with the NZDC with 74 or 11.4% identifying their ethnicity as Māori.

Entry Requirements: Otago University offers a Bachelor of Oral Health to become a dental therapist, which allows registration in both scopes of therapy and hygiene.  Auckland University of Technology provides a Bachelor of Health Sciences specialising in Dental Therapy.

Secondary Education: A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter into training to become a dental therapist. Subjects of use include biology, chemistry and English.

Dental Hygienist/Kaiakuaku Niho

A dental hygienist is concerned with the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of periodontal disease. A Hygienist also provides education to empower individuals to maintain good oral hygiene through healthy oral behaviours to prevent disease.

In 2009 there were just over 400 individuals registered as hygienists with the Dental Council with 19 identifying as Māori.

Entry Requirements: A bachelor of Oral Health, current practising certificate and registration with the NZ Dental Council is required to practise as a dental hygienist.

Secondary Education: Level 2 Biology or NCEA equivalent required.

Dental Technician/Kaihangarau Niho

A dental technician designs, constructs and repairs fixed and removable oral and extra oral appliances to replace missing teeth, repair or protect damaged teeth or oro-racial structures usually at the direction of a clinician. A technician can also become a Clinical dental technician which enables them to work with the public in a clinical setting.

There were just over 350 individuals are registered as Dental Technicians with 9 or 2.6% identifying as Māori.

Entry Requirements: A Bachelor of Dental Technology is required to become a dental technician. To become a Clinical dental technician, 2 years working as a dental technician is required and completion of a Postgraduate Diploma in Dental Technology.

Secondary Education: A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter into training to become a dental technician. Subjects of use include biology, art, maths and physics.

Dental Assistant/Kaiāwhina Mahi Niho

A dental assistant supports a dentist or therapist/hygienist in their role and also helps in running the dental clinic.

Entry Requirements: There are no specific entry requirements to become a dental assistant and training is often received whilst working. However, a Certificate of Dental Surgery Assisting is available through NZDA.