Her passion is infectious – enough to overcome the stereotype of boring, studious types drilling holes in teeth. Marina is a dental and maxillofacial house surgeon, and her job is incredibly versatile.

“I work in different departments. There is the special care unit, in which I provide dental care for people who have physical or mental disabilities. There is a walk-in service in the University of Otago School of Dentistry for people who have sustained acute tooth pain. I work in Dunedin Hospital as a maxillofacial house surgeon and look after people who have had accidents, cuts to their face, or broken facial bones – anything in their head and neck area. I am the primary assistant to a consultant (surgeon) who performs facial reconstructions, and I deal with smaller injuries myself. I have my own private patients, for whom I provide normal dental work (crowns, bridges, root canals, dentures, etc.), and I also tutor in paediatric dentistry.”

For aspiring dentists, the University of Otago is the only university in New Zealand that provides the five-year Bachelor of Dental Surgery course.

“You have to go through the Health Sciences course in first year, which is open to school leavers, and after that, there is a competitive entry to the School of Dentistry, and they only select around 60 students each year.”

Given the competitiveness of the course, Marina suggests a solid understanding of the sciences for success in dentistry.

“A prior knowledge in high school of biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics is crucial for dentistry. You should also have a lot of motivation because nothing about this course is a walk in the park. It is great fun, but you have to be prepared to put in the hours.”

And Marina’s advice for would-be dentists or maxillofacial surgeons? “Do it. It’s fascinating.”

Average pay

  • Dentists with one to three years’ experience usually earn $80k–$120k per year.
  • Senior dentists with more than five years’ experience usually earn $120k–$150k
    per year.

(Source: Careers New Zealand)

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