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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 combination of self-directed learning activities, lectures, online 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, oral health therapist, dental therapist, or dental hygienist during oral health care procedures. 

Note: As of 2022 the NZDA Certificate in Dental Assisting course is no longer NZQA accredited.



Enrolments for the NZDA Certificate in Dental Assisting are open from October to early December, for course commencement on the 1st of February the following year.

To qualify for enrolment in the NZDA Certificate in Dental Assisting, students must be permanent residents of New Zealand, and be employed as a dental assistant by an 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 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.

Students must have use of a computer with internet access.


Course Structure

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

Students enrolled on the course will receive a personalised username and password to access their nine online learner guide modules, online assessments, learning tutorials, crosswords, and charting scenarios. 

At the beginning of the course year, students will have access to nine online learner guides, which are to be completed concurrently with their online assessments and workplace observation tasks, set throughout the year. These learner guides are designed to provide students with nine modules of competency based learning, as listed:

  • Comply with infection prevention and control policies and procedures
  • Process reusable medical devices and equipment
  • Communicate and work effectively in health or community settings
  • Diversity in the workplace
  • Participate in workplace health and safety
  • Prepare for and assist with oral health care procedures
  • Assist with dental radiography
  • Assist with administration in dental practice
  • Assist with oral hygiene instruction

Additionally, an online assessment for the sub-module ‘Instrument Identification’ is to be completed as part of module DA006 ‘Prepare for and assist with oral health care procedures’. No learner guide will be available for ‘Instrument Identification’ as it tests students’ applied learning covered within the day to day running of the practice.


Course Completion

To successfully complete the course, students must complete all self-assessments and assessments within the prescribed timeframe. 

As the course is competency-based, students must achieve 100% in assessment tasks and will receive a second and third opportunity to achieve this, if unsuccessful in their first and second attempts. Each ‘re-assessment’ will only require students to re-answer questions that have been marked incorrect in their previous attempts.

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 CORE Immediate (or equivalent), which is to have been completed no more than two years prior to the end date of the course.

Students are required to complete the online MauriOra courses when completing module DA004 ‘Diversity in the workplace’. The course coordinator will advise of a voucher code in order to access a separate online assessment portal and gain their certificates; ‘Foundation course in cultural competency (Māori)’ and ‘Māori healthcare and the Treaty of Waitangi’. Certificates of completion for these courses are to be printed out from the student’s account on the MauriOra website and retained in their Evidence Portfolio. The fee for completing these certificates is included in the Certificate in Dental Assisting course fee.

Students are required to submit their completed evidence portfolio online via their student portal for marking purposes. These must contain their course work and the results of their workplace observation assessments at the conclusion of the course. Submission of the students’ portfolio will be the basis for issue of their course certificates.


Course Support

The NZDA Certificate in Dental Assisting course is coordinated by the NZDA Education Team, based at NZDA House in Ellerslie, Auckland.

Each student participating in the course will be assigned to one of five Regional Facilitators who provide support and guidance to their students. Facilitators are based within the regions of Auckland, Waikato, Wellington, Canterbury and Otago. 

Two lectures are given in the five regional centres during the year. 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 via our FAQ's page 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: 

Katiella O’Connor
Course Coordinator
E: [email protected]

NZDA Certificate in Dental Assisting

For more information on the NZDA Certificate in Dental Assisting course please contact Katiella O'Connor