Dentistry is not just about teeth, but about all oral and maxillofacial tissues like the mouth, gums, and jaws. Maintaining oral health is relevant to overall general well-being, which makes dentists one of our relevant front liners. Dentists help the public in preventing, diagnosing, and treating oral diseases.
Being a dentist can be a highly challenging profession because it requires a great ability to use one’s hands and precisely make small movements. Some of their tasks include providing preventive dental care like cleaning and fluoride applications, as well as diagnosing oral diseases. In addition, they bring back oral functions (e.g. prostheses) and provide restorative dental care (e.g. orthodontics and implants).
Dentistry schools prepare dentists for these high-level tasks by providing a combination of theoretical and practical learning opportunities. One of the places where you could study dentistry is in New Zealand. New Zealand is known as a small island nation with approximately 4.5 million people, and one of the safest countries in the world. New Zealand’s dental education is widely accredited and recognized internationally. Opportunities to work full-time or part-time in hospitals, private practices, or the academe await dentistry graduates.
On the other hand, there are some personal requirements that should be met by future dentists. First is the ability to relate to different kinds of people. Second, to be accurate and precise as manual dexterity skills are a must. The third is resilience or the ability to work under pressure. The fourth and last is to have great problem-solving skills since dentists would need to create a treatment plan for their patients to maintain or restore overall oral health.
Ready to start your dental education in this country? We’ve outlined the steps to become a dentist in New Zealand.
Steps to Become a Dentist in New Zealand
1. Pass and finish the Health Sciences First Year at Otago University
The first requirement for you to get into dentistry is to complete the Health Sciences First Year (HSFY) program offered by Otago University. It is considered your first year of study at university and prepares you for your health professional program. Aside from Dentistry, HSFY is a requirement for those seeking careers in Medicine, Pharmacy, Medical Laboratory, and Physiotherapy.
To get into this program, applicants should have a rating of 70% and above in the University Clinical Aptitude Test for Australia and New Zealand. This is a computer-based diagnostic exam that helps universities choose students with the best suitable competencies to excel as future doctors and dentists. Aside from this, completing the HSFY Diagnostic English Test is also needed. No prior subjects are required to get into the HSFY program, but it is advisable to take Biology, Chemistry, and Physics.
To successfully complete HSFY, students need to pass all seven required papers on Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, Human Body Systems, Biological Physics, Population Health, and Chemical Basis of Biology and Human Health.
2. Complete the Bachelor of Dental Surgery degree or equivalent
The next step to become a dentist in New Zealand is to finish a 4-year Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) degree at Otago University, the only university in New Zealand with this program.
Getting good grades and writing commendable papers during your HSFY would be beneficial for you to get admitted to the Bachelor of Dental Surgery, which is a highly competitive program with limited slots for students. The required grade point average set by the Dental Admissions Committee is usually a B. Aside from academic standing, interviews and tests are also administered as part of their selection criteria.
The estimated cost of taking this program is about $70,000. Further costs for textbooks, materials, and accommodation may also be incurred.
In terms of the program, the BDS program starts in your second year. The second year mainly focuses on foundational Biomedical Sciences like anatomy, physiology, and oral biology, while the third year focuses on working as a dentist in a community with an emphasis on public health. The final years in the program aim to build the student’s clinical skills through practical simulations and dentist-patient sessions. Some of the subjects are prosthodontics, pediatric dentistry, oral surgery, orthodontics, among others. Lastly, a dentistry student’s fifth year involves a research project done either in New Zealand or abroad.
3. Get registered by the Dental Council of New Zealand
To begin practicing dentistry in New Zealand, a graduate must first register to the Dental Council of New Zealand and meet the requirements. This is a crucial step to become a dentist in New Zealand. To qualify, the applicant should be a graduate of Bachelor of Dental Surgery at Otago University. Graduates of an Australian Dental Council accredited program, General Dental Council accredited dental schools in the UK and Commonwealth countries, or undergraduate dental degrees in the USA or Canada may also qualify for this registration.
Alternatively, an applicant could take the New Zealand Dentist Registration Examination of NZDREX consisting of written, clinical, and oral exams. There will also be an assessment of your research skills. There is a fee of $3,457.23 for the written exam and $5,351.05 for the clinical exam.
Recent graduates can apply for the registration online, provided that they have completed the BDS degree within the last 12 months. The registration fee is around $514.07 to $591.18. After this, dentists and dental specialists alike are required to renew their annual practicing certificates (APC) yearly. They need to settle APC fees of approximately $937.94 to $1,078.63.
4. Find a job as a Dentist
Once you have successfully completed the registration, newly graduated dentists can start pursuing their chosen dentistry career paths. They may work part-time or full-time in various settings like private practice and hospital clinics. The majority of dentists are self-employed, while some work for the Army, University of Otago, or other community dental practices.
Several specializations are available for dentists. Some of which are oral and maxillofacial surgeons, oral medicine specialists, orthodontists, pediatric dentists, and periodontists. Orthodontists specialize in correcting crooked teeth and jaw growth, which results in fitting braces. On the other hand, periodontists address gum diseases.
I hope this article on the steps to become a dentist in New Zealand was informative and helpful. To know more information on studying abroad, check out the Available Programs for International Students.