Oral Health Therapist, Lumino Ponsonby
Bachelor of Health Science (Oral Health)
Being an oral health therapist isn’t just about ‘cleaning teeth’, says AUT oral health alumna Roanne Horne who now works at Lumino Ponsonby.
“Oral health therapy is a multi-disciplinary qualification where graduates are registered to practise in both dental therapy and dental hygiene. At Lumino Ponsonby, I’m lucky enough to utilise both aspects of my degree. I provide hygiene services/treatments for patients of all ages, as well as restorative treatment to children up to the age of 18.”
After working as an oral health therapist for almost a decade, Roanne believes cost, fear and embarrassment are the biggest barriers preventing patients from seeking dental health services
“Often patients are embarrassed by the state of their dental health. My aim is to provide a safe, judgement-free space for patients. I realise having dental treatment is not a ‘fun’ experience so my aim is to make the experience as pleasant and pain-free as possible. I aim to encourage and empower patients through education; not shame.
“Another barrier to patients seeking treatment is cost. That’s why Lumino offers an affordable dental plan that includes regular checks and hygiene services, as well as payment options for dental treatment. We have a strong focus on prevention.”
Finding her passion
Roanne discovered her passion for oral health while completing an introductory certificate at AUT that gave her insight into the different health science study options.
“When I completed high school, I found I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I just knew I wanted to help people. After exploring my options, I decided to apply for oral health but knowing how competitive places were, I also applied for nursing and occupational therapy. To my delight, I was offered a place in oral health and so began my journey.”
Not coming from a dental background was a little daunting at first, she admits.
“My class consisted of many former dental assistants who already had some basic dental experience. In saying that, the lecturers and clinical educators were an excellent source of support and knowledge. Although advantageous, you definitely don’t need to come from a dental background to enrol in this degree.
“Within the degree, we learned about dental disease – periodontal disease, caries, oral pathology, the list goes on. The strong focus on prevention and the link between dental health and overall systemic health has shaped the core of my practice and patient education.”
Prepared to succeed
Her success as an oral health therapist is a credit to the world-class training she received at AUT, Roanne says.
“AUT offers state-of-the-art facilities to support hands-on training. In the oral health simulation lab you can practise clinical skills on fake heads under the watchful eyes of your clinical educators, enabling you to truly perfect your clinical skills. AUT also provides over 1,000 hours of clinical experience in their on-site dental clinic as well as at Auckland Regional Dental Service clinics across Auckland.
“I remember being a new graduate on my first day at my first job as an oral health therapist. I remember feeling a sense of panic and thinking ‘Do I really know what I’m doing?’. That’s when everything I learned at AUT automatically kicked in as if riding a bike. I saw my first patient, then the next, then the next and in what seems like a blink of an eye, it has been almost a decade.”
Her advice for other students is to make the most of the expertise of the academic staff.
“Don’t feel stupid asking questions; your lecturers and clinical educators are there to help. Utilise their advice as much as possible. Stay humble and don’t panic – you can rely on the training you receive from AUT, you got this!”