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Careers in Oral Health

There is a demand for Oral Health graduates. All University of Otago Oral Health graduates meet the requirements to register as a dental hygienist, a dental therapist, or both.

As a graduate, you'll be able to apply knowledge about health and disease to health promotion in education, community development, and public policy.

Employment opportunities include working in private dental practices, orthodontic practices, community-based clinics, iwi-based clinics, and hospital dental clinics.

Postgraduate study and research opportunities include Master of Health Sciences (MHealSc), Master of Public Health (MPH), and PhD degrees.

Graduate profiles

Marija Lovric, BOH Graduate

Marija Lovric (profile pic)Marija Lovric began her career as a dental assistant—but when she saw "how amazing patients felt after receiving treatment and becoming healthy," she thought "I wanna do that!"

After enrolling in the Faculty of Dentistry's Bachelor of Oral Health (BOH) programme, Marija found her studies to be both hard work and very rewarding.

"You get to learn from some amazing people who are always happy to help. Also we had some amazing, supportive tutors who went out of their way to make sure that everyone was on track," she says.

Marija speaks fondly of the hands-on clinical experience that is an integral part of the programme.

"From simulation clinics to patient clinics, there was never a dull moment," she says. "Each patient is different and unique … our challenge was to create a treatment plan that met not only their dental needs but also their needs as a person—this was the thing I enjoyed the most."

During her studies, Marija also had the opportunity to undertake a Matched Summer Student Scholarship, which gave her the chance to undertake dental research during her summer break.

"That made me even more passionate about my career, and also gave me a better understanding of the microbiology side of oral health and what it means to follow evidence-based practice," she explains.

Now working as a dental hygienist in private practice and as a dental therapist for the Hutt Valley District Health Board, Marija says her Otago training has equipped her well for these two roles.

"At Otago we were exposed to many different dental environments—which makes Otago graduates adaptable and employable."

Ashlea Mulligan, BOH Graduate

Ashlea Mulligan (profile pic)After leaving secondary school, Ashlea Mulligan knew she wanted to pursue a career in health so she enrolled in Otago's Health Sciences First Year (HSFY) to keep options open while sampling a wide variety of subjects.

"Choosing Otago was easy," she says. "It is regarded as the best place to study Health Sciences. And Dunedin is such a quirky city: it's beautiful, and the scarfie lifestyle is something everybody should experience."

During her first year Ashlea chose to enrol in the Bachelor of Oral health programme.

"As the degree is multidisciplinary, you learn to think broadly. You're required to problem solve on the spot and work out what treatment will be most beneficial for each patient.

"I really liked the science behind things, and discovering how pathology occurs and how products help protect against further destruction. I equally enjoyed the clinical aspect as there are certain things textbooks just can’t teach you … It isn’t until you’ve had that hands-on experience do you start to become a better clinician."

But the highlight for Ashlea was graduation.

"Walking in the graduation procession you realise you've learnt so much, met great people, and have just become a newly-graduated health care professional."

Ashlea now works as a dental therapist for the Canterbury District Health Board, and as a dental therapist / hygienist at a private dental practice. She says it's "the best of both worlds."

In future she hopes to gain more work experience and then work as an oral health therapist overseas – or perhaps further her studies in health promotion.

"I always said I would never look in someone's mouth for a living," she jokes. "Never say never, huh?"