Study Dentistry at Otago

Good oral health – a key factor in good general health

Dentistry is not just about teeth. It is about working as part of a team to promote good oral health – a key factor in good general health.

Dentists help prevent oral diseases and diagnose and treat oral conditions. Dentists have many roles; they can have family-based general dental practices, they may work in hospitals or community clinics with patients who are medically or socially disadvantaged, or they may undertake further postgraduate study and specialise in areas as diverse as paediatric dentistry to forensic dentistry and oral surgery.

Dentistry is both an art and a science. It covers the spectrum of oral health and supports all people in our community.

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Why study Dentistry?

Dentistry is a challenging profession that combines a high degree of manual dexterity and precision with a thorough understanding of craniofacial biology, anatomy, pathology, biomaterials, and excellent communication skills. As a dentist, you are the leader of the oral health team and can diagnose and carry out treatment planned for each patient's oral needs.

If you are considering a career as a dentist, you can look forward to a health profession that provides considerable variety and lifelong learning as you work to maintain your practising standards.

As a graduate there are opportunities for full- or part-time work in New Zealand or overseas, in private general or specialist practice, academic careers, or hospital- or defence-based practice.

Dentistry teaches you:

  • The scientific foundations in anatomy, physiology, oral biology, and biomaterials.
  • About public health dentistry and how to develop your communication skills.
  • Clinical skills, first in simulation classes and laboratories, and then in patient sessions.
  • About a wide range of clinical dental disciplines including prosthodontics and clinical cariology, endodontics, periodontics, paediatric dentistry, orthodontics, oral medicine, oral surgery, oral pathology, and special needs dentistry.
  • Otago has one of the most up-to-date dental facilities in the world.

Dentistry at Otago

What will I study?

After admission from Health Sciences First Year (HSFY), or from other entry categories, you will undertake a further four years of study within the Faculty of Dentistry. You will commence studies in second-year Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS2).

There are three themes that run through the entire course:

In second year, the largest theme is Biomedical Sciences, which lays the scientific foundations in anatomy, physiology and oral biology for the introductory clinical work you will undertake in the second theme, The Dentist and the Patient.

In the third theme, The Dentist and the Community, you will learn about cultural safety in dentistry, public health dentistry, and how to further develop your communication skills and ethical practice.

In third and fourth year, The Dentist and the Patient is a major component of the curriculum. Here you will develop your clinical skills, initially in simulation sessions in our state-of-the-art simulation laboratory and then managing patients in our new clinics.

You will cover a wide range of clinical dental disciplines including clinical cariology and prosthodontics, periodontics, endodontics, paediatric dentistry, orthodontics, oral medicine, oral surgery, oral pathology, and special needs dentistry.

To underpin your increasing clinical experience, the Biomedical Sciences papers will cover general and oral pathology, growth, development and ageing, oral medicine, oral surgery, and therapeutics. In The Dentist and the Community theme, you will explore epidemiology and determinants of oral health and culture, and ethnicity and oral health.

In fifth (final) year, you will consolidate your clinical experience either in Dunedin or our new clinical facility in Auckland.

Admission to Dentistry

Admission to Dentistry is competitive.  The majority of places are offered to students who have completed the Health Sciences First Year (HSFY) programme at the University of Otago. An interview and high grades are required. All HSFY papers must be passed with a minimum of 70 per cent and no paper mark less than 65 per cent.

Applications are also considered in the Graduate and Alternative categories.

In all cases, you must have completed the HSFY papers or approved alternatives with the required grades.

Applicants may apply via the Te Kauae Parāoa policy, which aims to create a professional health workforce that reflects the ethnic composition of New Zealand. Places are also available for international students who meet the admissions criteria.

Want to know more about admission to Dentistry?

Application information for admission into dentistry and other health sciences programmes is available online:

Dentistry website Admission page

International applications

If you are not a New Zealand or Australian citizen, or permanent resident, you can obtain information from the University's International Office:

International website Undergraduate page

How to apply

Application information for admission into the Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) programme is available on the Division of Health Sciences website:

Dentistry: Guidelines for Admission

Background required

There are no subject requirements for entry into the Health Sciences First Year (HSFY) programme, but we strongly recommend you take Biology, Chemistry, and Physics at Year 13.

HSFY must be your first year of university study. If you are considering tertiary study before enrolling, you are strongly advised to contact Health Sciences Admissions beforehand.


DENT papers

Paper Code Year Title Points Teaching period
DENT261 2024 The Dentist and the Patient 1 40 Full Year
DENT262 2024 Biomedical Sciences 1 65 Full Year
DENT263 2024 The Dentist and the Community 1 15 Full Year
DENT361 2024 The Dentist and the Patient 2 72 Full Year
DENT362 2024 Biomedical Sciences 2 36 Full Year
DENT363 2024 The Dentist and the Community 2 12 Semester 2
DENT364 2024 Dentistry in the New Zealand Context 72 1st Non standard period
DENT461 2024 The Dentist and the Patient 3 90 Full Year
DENT462 2024 Biomedical Sciences 3 18 Semester 1
DENT463 2024 The Dentist and the Community 3 12 Semester 2
DENT531 2024 The Dentist in the Community 86 Full Year
DENT533 2024 The Dentist in the Community 16 Full Year
DENT552 2024 Biomedical Sciences 4 18 Full Year

More information

Contact us

Health Sciences Admissions
Tel +64 3 479 7428

Faculty of Dentistry
Tel +64 3 479 8889

Studying at Otago

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Regulations on this page are taken from the 2023 Calendar and supplementary material.

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