Who is an Oral Health Professional?
An oral health professional forms part of the oral health care team. This professional has skills in dental therapy, dental hygiene and health promotion.
Dental hygienists educate patients about the health of their mouths and provide options for improving and maintaining oral health. Dental hygienists work closely with dentists in detecting and treating oral disease and in preparing mouths for complex restorative care.
A dental therapist is a highly skilled professional member of the oral health team who provides quality dental care to various sections of the community, particularly preschoolers and children. Early detection of dental disease and preventive treatment is a key aspect of the work of a dental therapist, along with restorative care.
An oral health professional can be registered to practise as a dental hygienist or as a dental therapist or both. Both disciplines are skilled at promoting healthy lifestyles and have a strong awareness of the socio-cultural influences on health.
Some reasons for studying Oral Health?
- To become part of the dental team
- To foster life-long positive oral health attitudes and behaviour in patients
- To develop the skills to provide dental care and to treat periodontal conditions
- To obtain skills in health promotion
- To gain a qualification which provides work opportunities in New Zealand and overseas
Graduates will meet the requirements for registration as either a dental hygienist or a dental therapist or both. Graduates will be able to apply knowledge about health and disease to health promotion in education, community development and public policy.
There is a wide range of employment opportunities, which include working in general practices, orthodontic practices, school-based clinics, iwi-based clinics and hospital dental clinics.
Postgraduate study and research opportunities include a Master of Health Sciences, Master of Public Health and PhD degrees.
There is a demand for oral health graduates in New Zealand and Australia, and other countries worldwide.
Background Required - Prerequisities
University entrance requirements apply. Applicants must have attained a satisfactory standard in NCEA Level 2 Biology and English or approved equivalents.
The Oral Health Course
The University of Otago Bachelor of Oral Health is an exciting three-year degree at New Zealand’s only School of Dentistry, delivering an excellent innovative education in oral health.
Oral Health degree students will be working in a team with undergraduate and postgraduate dental and dental technology students, and with constant access to highly qualified specialist staff. Graduates will be leaders in the field, because the programme ensures its teaching and research are continually refined and improved to keep in step with oral health best-practice and ensures the students are well prepared for life-long, self-directed learning.
In the first year of the Oral Health degree students learn how the body works, particularly how oral tissues interact with their environment. Students will consider social issues, including papers in Maori Society, and learn the most effective use of computers in the study and practice of oral health. Clinical practice starts in the first year as well. Initially students will develop clinical skills on models and simulation heads, treating patients later under supervision.
The second year introduces pathology, pharmacology and medicine relevant to oral health. A large part of the year is spent in developing clinical skills in dental hygiene and dental therapy.
The third and final year concentrates on further clinical training, community oral health and oral health promotion. Students also undertake a research project.
Students are encouraged to develop problem-solving skills and to appreciate the need for life-long learning. Small classes allow the formation of supportive long-term personal and professional relationships with peers.
What skills are needed?
Oral Health degree students need to like and care for people. They should also be reasonably fit and healthy.
Faculty of Dentistry, University of Otago, PO Box 647, Dunedin, New Zealand.
Oral Health ePortfolio
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