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AUT grads to address oral health short-fall


Monday, 8 December 2008

AUT graduates to address pressing staff short-falls in oral health

Today a new breed of oral health practitioner will join the workforce in response to pressing staff short-falls and disparities in the area of oral health.

All 23 are the first round of graduates of AUT University's Bachelor of Health Science in Oral Health degree - the first degree programme in New Zealand to offer combined education in dental therapy, dental hygiene and health promotion.

We expect our graduates' skill-set to be particularly appealing to both the private and public sectors, says Dr Susan Cartwright, Head of Oral Health at AUT.

"They can work in private practice alongside a dentist, providing dental hygiene services to all age groups, while also carrying out restorative and preventative care for under-18 year-olds."

"They will go some way to addressing current staffing short-falls in dental therapy and hygiene."

AUT's Oral Health degree is in line with the Ministry of Health's Primary Health Strategy 2006 which sets out to improve New Zealand's oral health services.

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

The establishment of large community health clinics is underway to support school dental clinics.

"Our graduates will be the perfect fit for these as they will work with all age groups," she says.

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 Dr Cartwright says should help provide better representation of these population groups in the oral health workforce in the future.

"This kind of 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 in 2006.

The university has also introduced a six-month course in dental surgery assisting which will provide valuable members of the oral health team to complement the growing oral health workforce. Some of these students may later go on to enrol for the Bachelors degree.

Notes to editors:

The latest New Zealand Health Survey found that two out of five adults only visit an oral health professional when they have a tooth ache and one in ten never visit.

One in ten adults (approx 300,000) said they were unable to see an oral health professional when they needed to in the past years. Numbers were much higher for Maori, Pacific and people in lower socioeconomic neighbourhoods.

Most people said cost was the main reason they did not get the help they needed. Fear or anxiety was much less important (one in ten mentioned this).

For a copy of the Ministry of Health's Oral Health Strategy (2006) visit

For more information about AUT University visit

AUT's Oral Health School receives valuable support from the following companies: Colgate GC - Billie Gilligan, Hu-Friedy, Henry Schein Shalfoon, Ebos 3M ESPE, Dentsply, Ivoclar Vivadent, NZ Dental, Johnson & Johnson, Auckland Regional Dental Service, NZ Dental Therapists Association, NZ Dental Hygienists Association


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