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AUT degree to address oral health disparities

AUT degree to address oral health disparities

AUT University’s Bachelor of Health Science (Oral Health) now includes combined education in both dental therapy and dental hygiene, the first degree programme to offer this in New Zealand.

Programme leader Helen Tane says graduates of the degree will be able to provide a wider range of routine oral health care for children and adults. This will in turn help address disparities in New Zealand’s oral health.

“Many New Zealanders do not receive adequate oral health care, particularly those in lower socio-economic and non-Pakeha groups. This is mainly due to a shortage of dental providers, access and cost issues,” she says.

“Our graduates will be better able to meet the needs of children and the wider community, especially those with the greatest need. They will have all the necessary fundamental oral health skills and can work in both public and private settings.”

Graduates will be independent practitioners, who will work collaboratively with dentists to provide the best care possible.

Mrs Tane says AUT’s degree is in line with the Ministry of Health’s Primary Health Care Strategy which sets out to improve New Zealand’s oral health.

“We are heading into an era where standards of excellence will be maintained and all New Zealanders will have better access to basic oral health services.”

The degree has received a great deal of interest with a waiting list for places. Maori and Pacific Island students are among those enrolled, which Mrs Tane says should help provide better representation of these population groups in the oral health workforce in the future.

“This kind degree is becoming increasingly popular overseas and with similar dental workforce shortages in other Western countries, our graduates will be in high demand.”

Students also have the advantage of using AUT’s state-of-the art Oral Health Clinic which opened last year.

AUT is phasing out its dental therapy-focused degree, with the last students graduating in 2007.

The university is also introducing a six-month course in dental surgery assisting later this year, which will produce valuable assistants to complement the growing oral health workforce. Some of these students may later go on to enrol for the Bachelors degree.

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