Training in new Otago dentistry building

26 June 2019

The 2020 intake marks the inaugural year of the $130-million Otago dentistry building (the newest in the southern hemisphere—and perhaps the world)! Super-users have recently trained on more than 200 dental chairs for patients in New Zealand’s new national dental teaching facility on the University of Otago’s Dunedin campus. Super-users are the designated resources within an organization who learn how new systems work and transfer that knowledge to end users—in this case, Otago dentistry staff and students.

University of Otago Dental School
Dental Assistant and Clinic Manager Christina Wells with one of the more than 200 new dental chairs installed as part of Otago’s Dental School redevelopment. Photo: Sharron Bennett. (Photo credit: University of Otago)

This is a massive milestone for the building being constructed in Great King Street, which is the first stage two-phase project.

Otago Dentistry Professor Alison Rich says the fact the chairs are installed and operational is an exciting milestone because “it demonstrates clearly that we’ll be in our new facility soon.”

Germany-based chair manufacturer DentsplySirona provided high-quality trainers from Germany and Australia to ensure the super-users learn the full capability of the state-of-the-art dental chairs and their associated equipment.

Those super-users have run ongoing training sessions with small groups of staff and students and prepared them for occupying the building next this past May.

Each chair has an integrated computer, which means

  • patients’ records can be seen on a screen on the chair;
  • the results of digital x-rays and scans can also be seen on that screen;
  • a special digital camera can take photos inside patients’ mouths and those images can be seen on the chair’s screen as well;
  • the chairs have a computerized self-cleaning system to ensure infection prevention standards are stringent;
  • the chair’s functioning is monitored via chair management software (Vionex) so any maintenance needs are immediately obvious and can be dealt with; and
  • the chairs (Sinius Treatment Centres) are for general dental work on patients along with orthodontics, special care and paediatrics.

Professor Rich says the chairs were chosen and clinics designed with a focus on people—patients, students and staff.

University of Otago Campus Development Division Director David Perry says the chairs fill the entire first, second and third floors of the new Clinical Services Building that is under construction—which is 60 more chairs than previously.

Inside the new building, “general conditions are also so much better—brighter, cleaner, airier, in a well-designed architectural space tailored for dental processes and workflows, with modern-building comforts,” he said.

The chairs, worth millions of dollars, arrived last year from DentsplySirona’s factory in Bensheim, where they were manufactured specially for the university’s Faculty of Dentistry.

Before those chairs started being shipped, a prototype was put in a mock-up of a typical clinic treatment bay to rigorously test whether the set-up would work for staff and students.

“We were building 211 of these, so we had to build one first to make sure they worked,” Mr Perry said.

Each bay needs room for students, supervisors, and patients, while every chair has a host of services attached—including power, data, water, drainage, compressed air, dental suction and a central dosing system that cleans internal pipework.

Choosing the chairs involved calling for international tenders that could meet the Otago Faculty of Dentistry’s needs and enable all the services to be connected to New Zealand standards.

“The chairs and some radiography equipment filled 20 containers so were kept in a Dunedin warehouse and only transported to the building site when needed,” Mr Perry said.

DentsplySirona installed the chairs on behalf of the university, using staff from a local experienced medical engineering company who received factory training from DentsplySirona in Bensheim.

The manufacturer’s technicians from Germany also helped as work ramped up and the chairs started to be commissioned. “The German staff were part of DentsplySirona’s special projects team, which travels around the world installing chairs for large institutions,” he said.

The new Clinical Services Building houses specialty and teaching clinics, the Primary Care Unit, radiography, and surgical suites. After the building was finished in May, the neighbouring Walsh Building’s remaining clinical areas also relocated to the new facility. Now, the Walsh Building will be refurbished. It will house research laboratories, academic offices, student support, and teaching laboratories.

The two buildings are being linked by an 1800-square-metre atrium, which will be “the heart” of the facility, used by patients, students and staff.

About the University of Otago Dental School

Otago Dentistry is ranked 34th-best dental school in the world (2019 QS World University Subject Rankings). Founded in 1907, it is New Zealand’s National Centre for Dentistry. It forms an integral part of the Division of Health Sciences within the University of Otago, in Dunedin.

Otago’s 5-year, undergraduate Bachelor of Dental Surgery program is a great option for post-grad students as they may be eligible to complete the program in 4 years. Otago is the only accelerated 4-year option for our students with a degree and without a DAT.

Program: Bachelor of Dental Surgery
Location: Dunedin, New Zealand
Semester intake: February
Duration: 4 – 5 years
Application deadline: September 13, 2019

Apply to the University of Otago Dental School!


Questions about studying at the University of Otago Dental School? Contact OzTREKK’s Australian Dental Schools Admissions Officer Alexa Graham at