Course Outline

The New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA) recognises the important role dental assistants play in the successful day to day running of the dental practice. We are proud to offer the NZDA Certificate in Dental Assisting course to dental assistants working alongside our NZDA Members, who wish to further their knowledge and develop their skills within this profession. Annually 150 – 200 students throughout New Zealand graduate with our certificate.

The NZDA course has been structured over one academic year commencing in February and concluding in November. It is a modular, online correspondence course which includes a mix of self-directed learning activities, lectures, on-line assessments and practical workplace experience.

Students completing this course will gain formal recognition from NZDA in having developed the skills to work competently and safely assisting a dentist, dental therapist or dental hygienist during oral health care procedures.



Enrolments for the NZDA Certificate in Dental Assisting are open from September to early November, for course commencement 1st February the following year.

In order to enrol in the NZDA Certificate in Dental Assisting, participants must be permanent residents of New Zealand and be employed as a dental assistant by a NZDA Member for a minimum of 20 hours per week at the time of enrolment and for the duration of the course year.

All students require a supervising dentist, who is ultimately responsible for their progression on the course and who is able to conduct their practical workplace observation assessments. Supervising dentists must be NZDA members who are willing and able to support their dental assistant throughout the course.

Participants must have use of a computer with internet access.


Course Structure

The Certificate in Dental Assisting is an online correspondence course, meaning that unit assessments are completed online through a specially designed website.

Students enrolled on the course will receive a personalised username and password in order to access their online assessments as well as learning tutorials, crosswords and charting scenarios. This is in conjunction with their own copy of the course material which includes detailed information on a wide range of dental matters.

At the beginning of the course year, students are sent their own set of learner guides, which are to be completed concurrently with their online assessments and workplace observation tasks set throughout the year. These learning guides are designed to provide students with 7 units of competency based learning and 4 units of underpinning knowledge. These are completed in a pre-determined order to deliver the flow of knowledge required from one unit to the next.

7 units of competency based learning:

- Communicate and work effectively in health
- Comply with infection control policies and procedures in health work
- Process reusable instruments and equipment in health work
- Participate in occupational health and safety processes
- Prepare for and assist with oral health care procedures 
- Assist with dental radiography 
- Assist in administration in dental practice 

Underpinning knowledge:

- Biology 
- Pathology and oral disease
- Dental materials
- General practice dentistry 
- Instrument identification

Note: No learner guide is supplied for the unit on Instrument Identification as this is provided to test students applied learning, covered within the day to day running of the practice.


Course Completion

In order to be successful on this course, participants must complete all of their online assessments within the allocated timeframes. The modular nature of the course means that each unit must be completed before moving on to the next. Students who fall behind in completing their online assessment tasks and practical workplace observations may be unable to progress on the course.

At the completion of the course year, all students must provide evidence that they have participated in a NZ Resuscitation Council Certificate in Resuscitation and Emergency Care (level 4) within 24 months of the conclusion of the course.

Students are required to submit their completed evidence portfolio containing their course work and results of their workplace observation assessments to their Regional Facilitator at the conclusion of the course. Submission of the students’ portfolio will be the basis for issue of their course certificate.


Course Support

The NZDA Certificate in Dental Assisting course is co-ordinated through the NZDA Education Team based at NZDA House in Ellerslie, Auckland.

In addition to this, each student participating in the course will be assigned to one of five Regional Facilitators who can offer added support and guidance their students. Facilitators are based within the regions of Auckland, Waikato, Wellington, Canterbury and Otago. At the conclusion of the course, students will provide their completed evidence portfolios to their Regional Facilitator.

Two lectures are given in the five regional centres. These cover topics relevant to the course units and are held on a Saturday so that students outside the major centres are able to travel and attend. These lectures are free to course participants and although not compulsory, are highly recommended as a great way to interact with peers.


More Questions?

More information about the NZDA Certificate in Dental Assisting course can be found in our information booklet, which is available for download on this page. Or alternatively, please check out our FAQ's for commonly asked questions about the course.

If you still have questions and would like to discuss these with one of the NZDA Education Team, please contact: 

Fleur Daji     
Course Co-ordinator