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Dental students get teeth into oral health degree

Friday 23 February 2006

Dental students get their teeth into new oral health degree
- Programme to address New Zealand’s shocking statistics -

The state of New Zealanders’ teeth and gums is set for a much needed boost thanks to an innovative new degree at the University of Otago.

The first intake of students for the University’s new Bachelor of Oral Health degree was welcomed at a special Faculty of Dentistry function this morning.

The three-year degree replaces the University’s previous diploma and Bachelor of Health Sciences qualifications in dental therapy and dental hygiene.

The new programme’s convener, Alison Meldrum, says it has been carefully designed to equip graduates to be leaders in meeting the challenge of today’s and tomorrow’s oral health needs.

“New Zealand has some shocking statistics in this area. Not only do around half of all five-year-olds have at least one cavity, there are also profound social and ethnic inequalities in oral health that are crying out to be addressed,” says Mrs Meldrum.

Bachelor of Oral Health graduates will meet the requirements for registration with the New Zealand Dental Council as either a dental hygienist or a dental therapist or both.

As well as providing intensive clinical training in these areas, the programme also strongly emphasises health promotion, science and socio-cultural knowledge underpinning best practice in oral health care provision, she says.

“Tooth decay and gum disease are chronic health issues for many, but they are largely preventable conditions. Our graduates will be trained in health promotion skills to educate people on how important it is to maintain good oral health practices.”

Faculty of Dentistry Dean Professor Gregory Seymour says it is fitting that the Bachelor of Oral Health degree is being launched in the same year as the centenary of dental education and research at Otago.

“This new degree draws on the full resources of the Faculty and the knowledge and expertise built up at Otago over the past 100 years,” says Professor Seymour.

The Mihi Whakatau (welcome) for the 40 new students was held at the Otago Museum’s Hutton Theatre. Speakers included Associate Professor John Broughton and Professor Seymour. Health Sciences Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Don Roberton delivered an inaugural address to the students.

ENDS

Background on the Oral Health qualification:

Web site: http://dentistry.otago.ac.nz/study/oralh.html

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