Sit written examination

What the written examination of the New Zealand Dental Therapy Registration Examination (NZDTREX) covers

The written examination tests your knowledge and understanding of the scientific basis of contemporary dental therapy practice and whether you can apply that knowledge to clinical situations.

You should be able to discuss a wide range of issues of relevance to oral health in the biological, physical, social and clinical sciences.

You must demonstrate that you can satisfy the dental therapy competencies which applicants for registration as a dental therapist must meet in order to be registered. These competencies can be found on the scope of practice competencies for dental therapists.

The examination papers

The examination will cover the following topics:

  • dental caries - causes and prevention (includes diet, plaque, fluoride)
  • dental caries (management of the deep carious lesion and minimal intervention dentistry)
  • management of gingivitis
  • recognition of periodontal disease and appropriate referral
  • medical conditions - emergency procedures
  • materials (indications, contraindications, advantages and disadvantages)
  • local anaesthesia (including knowledge of nerves, muscles and anatomy)
  • pain management
  • trauma management
  • orthodontics (Classification, referral)
  • Treaty of Waitangi
  • social determinants of health
  • health promotion
  • legislation affecting the practice of dental therapy

The written examination consists of two 3-hour papers.
Paper 1 includes questions requiring essay and short written answers. Some questions may ask you to apply your scientific knowledge to the delivery of dental therapy.

Paper 2 is made up of one hour of 50 Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) and two hours of Visual Interpretation, in the form of illustrations and clinical images and radiographs illustrating clinical conditions with questions requiring short written answers

You should note the meanings of the following three terms frequently used in the examination:

  • discuss: examine by argument. Involves logical critical appraisal of an issue
  • describe: description of characteristics
  • write (brief) notes on: short sentences or phrases. Tables, lists and/or diagrams may be used.

The last two terms are often used in questions that enable you to demonstrate your breadth of knowledge.

Resources for preparing for the examination

Reference material

The publications we list do not form the basis of the examination; however, they may be used as a general resource.

Resources for the examination

Tips for preparing for the examination

To feel prepared for the examination, it is recommended that you:

  • try to rest before the examination
  • dress comfortably
  • allow time for travel
  • locate the venue for each component of the examination the day before the examination
  • bring a watch
  • practise your English.

If you are uncertain about any instruction or question from the examiners, ask for clarification.

Examination rules

  • If you arrive more than 45 minutes after the examination starts, you will not be permitted to take the examination.
  • You may only take only pens and pencils into the examination room.
  • You may not take any book, written or printed matter, electronic devices capable of storing or processing data, telephones, blank paper, or information in any form.
  • You must not communicate with anyone about the examination questions;
  • You must not copy from another candidate's answers,
  • You must not communicate directly with the examiners.
  • If your writing is not legible, your answers cannot be assessed
  • If you break any examination rule, your paper will not be marked.

Clear, detailed instructions about seating, timing, labelling of papers will be given at the time of the examination which you must follow accurately.

Information about dates and place

When the examination is held

The written examination is held once per year. Please refer to the examinations timetable for the date.

Closing dates

Your assessment of eligibility application form must reach us by the closing date listed on the examinations timetable.

Where you can take the examination

The specific venue will be confirmed to you for each individual examination.
You will need to make all your own visa and travel arrangements. If you can’t sit the examination because you can’t arrange things like visas or travel, we’ll treat you as having withdrawn, and you will have to pay withdrawal fees.

You need to provide proof of identity, usually a passport. 


Receiving examination results

You will receive your results by email, usually between 10 to 12 weeks after the examination.

No results will be given by phone or fax.

Passing criteria

To pass the written examination you must achieve passes (C-) in each of the two papers.

Appealing examination results

To appeal a written examination result, you must write to us within four weeks from the date of the results.

If you fail the examination

You have three years from the date of first sitting the written examination and a maximum of three attempts to pass both the written and clinical parts of the NZDTREX.

If you fail the written examination, you must make another application, and pay a new examination fee.

If you have failed two attempts at the written part of the NZDTREX, we strongly recommend you complete a period of re-training before you sit it for the third and final time.