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Study Dentistry at Otago

Oral Health Staff


You will  find that Dentistry is a challenging profession that combines a high degree of manual dexterity and precision, together with an ability to communicate well with a thorough academic understanding of not only the mouth, but also the head and neck region. The skills of a dentist enable you to work as an oral physician, who diagnoses, formulates and carries out treatment that is planned to each individual patient’s oral needs.

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Career opportunities

Dentistry contributes to well-being, general health and appearance. Following graduation, you can join a general dental practice, become a hospital dental house surgeon or work in the defence force. You can also undertake postgraduate study and research for an academic career, or complete postgraduate clinical qualifications before entering specialist practice.

For you to practise dentistry in New Zealand you must be registered as a dentist with the Dental Council (New Zealand). The minimum qualification to do this is the degree of Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) from the University of Otago, which has New Zealand’s only Faculty of Dentistry. As a graduate from Otago, you’ll have an excellent reputation internationally.

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Entry is competitive and admissions regulations provide different categories of entrance:

  • The Health Sciences First Year (HSFY) category
  • The Graduate category
  • The Alternative category

You should read the appropriate regulations at, and in the University Calendar. There are 60 domestic places available for second-year classes each year, and the majority are admitted from the HSFY category of admission.

Health Sciences First Year category of admission

To be eligible for selection into Dentistry via this category, all your Health Sciences First Year papers must be passed with a minimum average of 70% and you cannot have any paper grades less than a B- (65%). If you have reached the academic and current UCAT threshold you will be invited to a Dental Admissions Interview. Following this, if you have met all the criteria, selection to Dentistry is based on your average mark in the Health Sciences First Year papers.

Graduate category of admission

If you’re a graduate and you have completed your first degree at a New Zealand university, you may apply for admission under this category. You must have completed papers equivalent to the HSFY papers, and the average of all papers across the degree must be completed with a minimum of a B (GPA of 5). To apply under this category, you must do so within three years of the completion of the requirements of your first degree. You must also reach the academic and current UCAT thresholds to be invited to a Dental Admissions Interview. If you meet all three selection criteria your selection will be based on your GPA.

Alternative category of admission

To be considered under this category, you must hold a degree from a New Zealand university, and no longer be eligible under the Graduate category, or have completed a degree at an overseas university to the equivalent of NZQA Level 7, or have a master’s and/or PhD qualification. You must have passed the equivalent of the papers prescribed for the Health Sciences First Year course, and have achieved a minimum academic standard to be determined by the Dental Admissions Committee in any papers undertaken at university level (usually a minimum of a B (GPA of 5) (Otago equivalent)). You must also have a current UCAT result that is above a threshold determined annually by the Dental Admissions Committee and have undertaken a Dental Admissions Interview. If you have met these criteria your selection will be based on academic merit and an interview.

If you are Māori or a Pacific Islander you may apply in any of the above categories and will be considered separately.

If you have lived, or been educated, in a rural area of New Zealand you may seek admission under the New Zealand Rural Origins sub-category.

Your application must be made to the Health Sciences Admissions Office, Division of Health Sciences, by 15 September in the year before admission.

International students

If you’re an international student you may be offered a place in second-year classes if you are sponsored through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the government of your country of origin or if you are a full-fee-paying overseas student and you have met the academic, UCAT and interview standards determined by the Admissions Committee.

Contact the International Office, University of Otago, for application details.

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Beyond your first year

Each of the next four years of your  five-year BDS programme comprises three papers: The Dentist and the Patient, Biomedical Sciences, and The Dentist and the Community. These three papers continue through the programme with increasing experience in all aspects of clinical dentistry. In your later years, you will also have opportunities to undertake supervised clinical work outside of the Dunedin campus, and to undertake an elective study and complete a research project.

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Health and conduct

The Division of Health Sciences requires all applicants applying for any of its health professional programmes to declare any criminal or disciplinary charges they have faced, or are facing, and any health status issues which could affect their participation in clinical aspects of the programme or their overall fitness to practise.

Contact the Health Sciences Admissions Office for information.

The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 is aimed at providing better protection for vulnerable children. One of the ways it aims to do this, is by introducing 'safety checking'. Applicants who enter the programme will receive further information regarding the timing of these checks.

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Contact details

Tel +64 3 479 8889

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See the full list of Dentistry (DENT) papers.

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Programme Requirements

Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS)

Year Papers Points
1st year

Health Sciences First Year Course

Note: Students enrolled in the Health Sciences First Year course will be required to achieve a satisfactory mark in a standard diagnostic English test or another approved measure of achievement.

2nd year

DENT 261  The Dentist and the Patient 1

DENT 262  Biomedical Sciences 1

DENT 263  The Dentist and the Community 1




3rd year

DENT 361  The Dentist and the Patient 2

DENT 362  Biomedical Sciences 2

DENT 363  The Dentist and the Community 2


DENT 364 * Dentistry in the New Zealand Context






4th year

DENT 461  The Dentist and the Patient 3

DENT 462  Biomedical Sciences 3

DENT 463  The Dentist and the Community 3




5th year

DENT 551  The Dentist and the Patient 4

DENT 552  Biomedical Sciences 4

DENT 553  The Dentist and the Community 4




* DENT 364 is available only for approved students admitted under the International Medical University Partnership Programme and having previously passed appropriate courses; students who pass the paper will be credited with the First, Second, and Third Year courses of the programme.

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Bachelor of Dental Surgery with Honours (BDS(Hons))

Year Papers Points
Fifth year

DENT 561  General Practice Dentistry for Honours

DENT 563  Community Service Learning

DENT 580  Dental Honours Research Project 1

DENT 581  Dental Honours Research Project 2

Note: Papers in the First, Second, Third and Fourth Years are the same as in the Schedule for the ordinary degree of Bachelor of Dental Surgery.





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Master of Dentistry (MDent)

Endorsement Papers Points
Aesthetic Dentistry

AEST 801  Principles of Aesthetic Dentistry

AEST 802  Advanced Aesthetic Dentistry

AEST 880  Research Dissertation




Rural Oral Health Care

ROHC 801  Principles of Medicine and Surgery for Rural Oral Health Care

ROHC 802  Advanced Principles in General Dental Practice

ROHC 880  Research Dissertation




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Diploma for Graduates (DipGrad) endorsed in Dentistry

Papers required
  • CLDN 910 Research Evaluation and Design
  • CLDN 920  Clinical Practice - Research Evidence

(for students withdrawing from a Doctor of Clinical Dentistry programme).

Note: Endorsement may require enrolment in papers totalling more than 120 points, depending on the extent of prior study in relevant subjects and whether the student wishes to be eligible for postgraduate study in the subject of endorsement.

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