About half the students who graduated from the University of Otago’s new dental facility in South Auckland last year now work in high-needs communities as dentists, and facility patients are grateful for accessible dental treatment for their long-term problems, University of Otago Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne says.
The University of Otago, Auckland Dental Facility (left) – which officially opened on Thursday 4 February after a soft launch last year – had 11 students in 2020 and is progressing to 29 this year then full capacity with almost 50 in 2022, which will be half the Faculty of Dentistry’s finalyear students and the facility’s limit, Professor Hayne says.
Facility Clinical Director Dr David Roessler believes one of its most lasting impacts could be the numbers of graduates who decide to work in high needs areas. Another lasting impact will be the students promoting oral health awareness and educating people about oral health.
Already praise has been flowing from the facility’s broad range of patients, most of whom have conditions that have gone untreated for years: “We’ve had a lot more impact than we expected, we haven’t even had to advertise for patients. This is a big deal in Auckland,” he says.
The facility provides treatment by appointment only. It follows the model operated successfully by the Faculty of Dentistry in Dunedin where the University service provides patients with quality treatment at an attractive cost, recognising that patients play a role in helping to educate the students.
Dr Roessler says the Auckland students “are in a world class facility situated in a highly multicultural area with an extremely diverse range of oral health needs.
“This provides them with an amazing opportunity, not just to learn, but to make a real contribution and become part of the community. We have already seen this happening in the time we have been open. Similarly, we offer oral health practitioners opportunities to continue their dental education.”
Dr Roessler says the facility staff and students have been “like a big family, which is really, really nice”.
University of Otago Faculty of Dentistry Dean Professor Mike Morgan says the $28.2 million, two-storey, 32-chair building was built on Counties Manukau District Health Board (DHB) land neighbouring the Manukau Super Clinic on Great South Road.
The University partnered with the DHB on the project which increases access to subsidised oral health care in South Auckland and fulfils the University’s three objectives of education, research and serving the community.
“This is an exciting day for the Faculty of Dentistry. The standard of the clinic matches our world class dental teaching facilities in Dunedin and its position in the community will allow us to make a real difference in improving health outcomes,” he says.
The University of Otago, Auckland Dental Facility was made possible by a $10 million donation from businessman Graeme Hart and his wife Robyn.
Professor Morgan says the broad range of learning opportunities will support the education of first class dental graduates: “They will leave their education and training experiences with a greater appreciation of the complex needs of our increasingly diverse population.”
Division of Health Sciences Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Brunton says the facility provides an additional educational opportunity for students across all dental programmes:
“This is particularly the case with respect to developing cultural competencies while providing dental care to a highneeds population in South Auckland.
“The facility’s continuing education and training post-graduation also helps dental teams across New Zealand maintain their skills to the benefit of all New Zealanders.”
The facility will strengthen relationships and partnerships with Māori and Pacific communities based on mutually beneficial goals incorporating patient care, research, and education.
The Faculty of Dentistry will regularly consult the community to find out what it needs from the clinics and will also provide outreach activities.
Construction of the facility – which incorporates state of the art dental and audio-visual equipment – was completed ahead of time and under budget.
The design accommodates the requirements of clinical services, education, and community accessibility. Based on current world best-practice, the dental chairs have more space around them for family.While most chairs are in bays, some are in rooms for extra privacy.
Through a partnership with the Te Ākitai iwi, a cultural narrative has been woven into the facility under the guidance of notable artist Johnson Witehira.
- The facility is designated as a general dental practice. It has 32 treatment chairs and
another chair dedicated to teledentistry.
- The facility’s Simulation Clinic – with artificial heads for practising dentistry – has 16 fully equipped stations, which also include screens for students and dentists to watch others work, lectures, or patients being treated (teledentistry).
- The facility’s seminar room’s capacity is up to 50 people.
- The University of Otago has been New Zealand’s national centre of dentistry since 1907.
The Faculty of Dentistry in Dunedin undertakes about 76,000 treatments annually in the city for the public from around the lower South Island. This service has now been extended to South Auckland.