Caring for patients is what drives dentist Stephanie Baylis.

However, what many of her clients may not know is that she is also a forensic dentist.

Dr Baylis, who recently established Baylis Dental Services in Maunu Rd, was inspired to become a forensic odontologist through her association with the Northland Search and Rescue squad.

This specialist squad works tirelessly to return loved ones to their families following a tragedy.


"I felt I could assist in the identification process and so began my forensic career," she said.

"I thoroughly enjoy the challenges that it brings, particularly with the injury interpretation cases [determining whether an injury could have been caused the way it has been reported to have been caused]."

"I find it very rewarding to assist those who have lost a loved one - helping to return them to their families as quickly as possible, to allow them to begin the grieving process and prepare for their final farewell."

Dr Baylis, who joined the New Zealand Society of Forensic Odontology (NZSFO) in 2010, said casework in forensic dentistry was not high which allowed her to continue in general dental practice, caring for her patients - "something I find equally as rewarding".

Once she joined the NZSFO, she became exposed to the other aspects of forensic dentistry assisting the police, the courts and other interested parties with a broad variety of case types.

Her work includes age estimation, orofacial injury interpretation, bite mark analysis, anthropological analysis of the skull and mandible, and dental ethics.

She said forensic dentistry was a "teeny bit like TV's CSI show, just because it's fascinating, but the process is significantly more scientifically robust and doesn't happen in an hour".

She has submitted reports that have been used in proceedings both in the Whangarei and Auckland law courts.

With a masters in forensic medicine from Monash University (Australia), she is the NZSFO-appointed Northland regional co-ordinator.

There is no formal forensic odontological training in NZ, however the NZSFO has authoritative systems in place to assure forensic odontology services provided by members of the society meet acceptable standards.

Dr Baylis is the only member of the NZSFO to hold the masters degree.

After graduating from Otago University School of Dentistry with a bachelor of dental surgery, she worked in Whangarei for 27 years, where she has built a solid reputation for being friendly, caring and gentle.

As other dental practices are expanding, Dr Baylis and her assistant Ginny Blair noted more and more people saying how dissatisfied they were with being treated impersonally, feeling they were just another number and uncertain who was providing their treatment.

"Setting up a dental practice that was small and personal seemed the logical step," she said.

The ethos of Baylis Dental is to centre attention entirely on each individual patient they see.

Great emphasis is placed on ensuring patient comfort, putting those who are nervous at ease, giving patients autonomy in their treatment decisions, ensuring patients are listened to and are well informed, she said.

Once treatment was completed, aftercare follow-up was provided readily for continued support and wellbeing.

Dr Baylis trained Mrs Blair in 1994.

"Ginny is a remarkable person, incredibly kind-hearted, extremely loyal and hard working. I am very fortunate to still be working with her," she said.

Before setting Baylis Dental Services in August, Dr Baylis was practising for about 15 years with Purely Dental Centre in the back of Whitecross Medical Centre when it was on Bank St. She was with Johnson and Baylis before that.