Dentists look after people’s oral health – and that’s much more than just pulling teeth. Dentists play a leading role in health care, as signs of many illnesses first show up in the mouth. Dental professionals need to be skilled with their hands as well as their heads, and have to have an extensive knowledge of a number of relevant disciplines to be able to care for their patients. And they have to be ready to keep brushing up on their skills throughout their careers.
What can I do when I graduate?
Dental graduates are spoilt for choice in New Zealand and overseas. Dentists are in demand all over the world.
Some graduates opt to work in private practice, while others join the defence force or work in hospital clinics, helping to reconstruct faces and jaws after surgery or accidents. Dentistry can be a financially rewarding career, offering independence and flexibility, in terms of working hours and type of practice.
Many dentists specialise and undertake postgraduate study available in all areas of dentistry including orthodontics (straightening teeth) and oral surgery.
What will I study?
If you gain admission to Dentistry, the Otago Health Sciences First Year counts as the first year of your five-year Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS).
For the next two years you will learn about the structure and function of the face and jaws, the diagnosis and treatment of oral diseases, including cancer and infections, and how to carry out clinical procedures.
In the final two years you’ll carry out more complex root fillings, extract teeth, perform basic gum surgery, straighten crooked teeth using orthodontic appliances, and make crowns and bridges.
The School of Dentistry is a teaching dental hospital so during your training years you will treat patients, as you would in general practice, but you will be under supervision. You will also have the opportunity to work closely alongside students who are studying other dental disciplines.
Note that a dentist’s education doesn’t end when you’re awarded a BDS. Once you have registered with the Dental Council of New Zealand you can practise, and for the rest of your career you can keep learning at various courses and conferences held locally, nationally and internationally.
Faculty of Dentistry, University of Otago, PO Box 647, Dunedin, New Zealand.
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