Oral Health Therapist, Downtown Dental
Bachelor of Health Science (Oral Health)
The people are what she loves most about having a career in oral health, says health sciences alumna Ellen Johnson who is now an oral health therapist at Downtown Dental.
“In this role, I meet people from all walks of life; some with beautiful healthy mouths and others with all stages of periodontitis. I’m also trained in recognising and referring patients with certain oral conditions. I enjoy helping my patients overcome their dental fears, which are usually due to past traumatic experiences. I want my patients to smile confidently with a high standard of oral health.”
With a career in healthcare, you’re forever learning and developing your skills, she says.
“I’m responsible for providing dental care for children under 18, and preventing and treating periodontal disease for people of all ages. I’m also providing oral health education for my clients. Looking back on when I first started my career in oral health in 2015, compared to where I am now, I feel so proud of how much I've learnt and achieved.”
Finding her path
Ellen first realised that a career in oral health was a good fit for her when she was working as an assistant in a dental practice while raising her young daughter.
“I was an assistant to two amazing dental therapists, and that experience confirmed that this was the future for me. Many of my colleagues in the dental practice had studied at AUT, and I also got to see the oral health students when they were on clinical placements with us. I found that inspiring.”
Choosing where to study was an easy decision for Ellen, who was impressed by the amount of clinical experience AUT’s oral health degree offered.
“I loved that as part of our AUT degree we could complete clinical placements in both high and low decile areas all over Auckland, as well as in other parts of New Zealand. I particularly enjoyed being able to do a placement in Kawakawa with the Ngāti Hine Health Trust. I also liked the fact that because this was a health science degree I could take courses on topics like health law, and anatomy and physiology alongside students from other health disciplines.
“I still remember sitting in the lecture theatre by myself in my first week, not knowing a soul. I said to myself, ‘You can't do this; you left school at 16 with nothing. You're not smart enough’. Three years later, standing in my gown and cap, ready to graduate, I thought back to that moment and felt extremely proud to have achieved my goal. I even received the ARDS School Dental Service Award just before my graduation, and gained the highest mark for the Human Anatomy and Physiology final exam.”
Advice for other students
Ellen, who graduated from AUT at the end of 2014, has some great advice for other students.
“My advice is to make the most of your clinical placements, and make sure to open your mind to other people's opinions and feelings.”
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, she adds.
“Ask all the questions you need to and push yourself to get as much experience as you can while your tutors are there to help you.”