Dental professional

Dental professionals working in unique situations

Christine Murthi

Date: Jun 8 - 2022

Chantal Yeatman is an Oral Health Therapist who grew up in Auckland and then moved to Hawke’s Bay to continue her high school education. She is of Pacifica and European descent and the only child in her family. She loves the outdoors, food, hunting and cooking. Her motivation to become an Oral Health Therapist came from helping others and she is always prepared to listen, advise and assist wherever she can. She joined the New Zealand Army as a chef then became a dental assistant for the dental corp in 2015. Following this she completed her Bachelor of Health Science in Oral Health from the Auckland University of Technology. Chantal currently works in Linton Camp but covers other dental centres under the central dental region such as Ohakea and Waiouru. She and her team are responsible for the ongoing oral health of the New Zealand Dental Force (NZDF) personnel, both military and civilian, through clinical procedures and education. It is a diverse and exciting role. A normal day at the base would be regular hygiene maintenance appointments, periodontal treatment, preventative care, constructing mouth guards, physical training, army administration duties and training.

I asked Chantal some questions about her role.

What is the main priority in your role?

My main priority is to educate! Education goes a long way in improving knowledge and skill base. Everything I learned during my degree really opened my eyes and I find the importance of oral health messages to be a priority in providing a good service. However, the soldiers would say my main priority is to clean their teeth so they can be dentally fit to deploy. 

What are the entry requirements to enter this special workforce? 

Information for entry is available on the Otago and AUT websites if you are interested in qualifying as an Oral Health Therapist. Another pathway would be to enter through the NZDF and information is available on their website. Dental assistants employed by the NZDF can apply through the NZ army and are chosen by a panel. No specific training or tests are required. However, we do keep up with Army deployability (fitness tests and weapons qualifications) during our holidays. Careers in the Army are well-rewarded, diverse and exciting. 

What do you enjoy most about your job?

How every day is different just because of who you will interact with, and the issues you will face. Being able to assist or guide someone into improving their overall wellbeing definitely brings a sense of achievement and that ‘good deed done for the day’ feeling.

Any advice for future Oral Health professionals wanting to enter this career pathway?

Pursue this career knowing you CAN and WILL make a difference, even if you can’t see it straight away. You need a passion for interacting with people, educating, helping others, being empathetic, enjoying working with children, and being open-minded.

Do you travel for your work?

Yes – Up and down the country if any of our military bases need cover. Dental teams can be deployed within New Zealand and overseas to support NZDF personnel on operational missions and exercises. Jobs are either on the base or on deployment. We can also assist with natural disasters. 

How do you gain continued professional development hours for your annual practising certificate?

There is opportunity to attend courses and conferences relevant to the field of dental hygiene. These could be held within New Zealand, or overseas.

Christine Murthi is an Oral Health Therapist. Prior to this she obtained qualifications in pharmacology and secondary teaching from University of Auckland. She has teaching/tutoring experience spanning more than ten years. Through this teaching experience combined with her diverse cultural background she has developed a passion for connecting with the community and students. Recently she joined Auckland University of Technology as a clinical educator and supports second and third year Oral Health students with practising clinical skills. She is also currently working on her Masters in Health Science qualification. As a member of the Colgate Advocates for Oral Health: Editorial Community, her contributions to the dental community aim to highlight the importance of preventative care and strengthening this with oral health education.