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Dental Therapist

Dental therapists examine and treat diseases of the teeth in pre-school,primary and secondary school children, under the general supervision of a dentist. The dentistry work performed is varied from identifying the disease risk of the child, providing professionally applied preventive treatments, carrying out simple restorative work in deciduous and permanent teeth, through to the extraction of teeth under local anaesthetic, and the initial management of trauma.

Overview

  • Where do dental therapists work?

    A dental therapy profession offers women and men of all ages, races and ethnic backgrounds exceptional dentistry career opportunities to work as clinicians, administrators, educators, researchers, sales and marketing managers, editors and consultants in an array of flexible work schedules.

    The public sector oral health services (state/territory government) are the major employers of dental therapists. They work in fixed and mobile clinics promoting oral health care to children. There is a high demand for dental therapists in regional, rural and remote locations in most states of Australia.

    Clinicians: Clinical dental therapists must work under the guidance of a dentist, which can be in a variety of health care settings such as mobile, school and community dental clinics. In some states/territories a dental therapist can be employed in private dental practices or be the owner of a dental practice where they must employ a dentist and work under his or her guidance in the delivery of dental care.

    Administrator: Dental therapists can work as a coordinator of oral health promotion activities for the state and territory dental health services focused on the major oral health problems faced by Australian communities. They concentrate on interventions that have the greatest good for the greatest number of people that includes collaboration with multiple community partners and evaluation of the impact of the programs on the population’s oral health.

    Educator: Dental therapists can apply the skills and knowledge from their work experience in teaching dental students and dental therapy students in the university degree programs. This is a dental career avenue that can lead toward advanced degrees, such as a Masters degree or a PhD to qualify for a Professor position.

    Researcher: Dental therapists have a significant role to play in epidemiology studies on the occurrence of childhood oral disease and the impact of preventive and restorative interventions. Research is a component of advanced degrees and can be conducted in the public sector oral health services or training program, or within a laboratory setting.

    Sales and Marketing Manager: Dental therapists can be employed by product and service companies in the dental industry to lead both professional and public marketing campaigns. The work involves building customer relationships, identifying and presenting the market and the customer requirements as well as organising and participating in trade exhibitions.

    Editor: Dental therapists can apply their skills and knowledge toward informing and educating the dental profession on current issues, techniques and research. This position can involve a professional magazine, journal or textbook and requires writing skills, self-motivation, good organisational and time management skills (deadlines), attention to detail and creativity.

    Consultant: Dental therapists that have achieved effective disease control through clinical and oral health promotion can choose to share their achievements with dental professionals on the speaker circuit to deliver educational courses. Additionally, dental therapists can be employed by dental companies to create and deliver educational material to healthcare professionals and the public as an Educational Consultant.

    Statistics on the Australian labour market - dental hygienist, therapist, technician

     

  • What do dental therapists do?

    A dental therapist’s clinical role includes a variety of duties in both the public and private sectors. The Dental Act in each state or territory regulates the procedures, environment and population segment in the dental therapist’s scope of practice. New South Wales regulates that dental therapists must practice only in the public sector through mobile, community or school dental clinics on children up to their 18th birthday while under the supervision of a dentist.

    As part of clinical dental therapy services, a dental therapist career in New South Wales may include:

    • Perform oral health assessments on children, adolescents and teenagers that include taking a health history, dental charting, oral cancer screening, tooth decay screening and saliva testing;
    • Expose, process and interpret dental X-rays;
    • Perform a dental examination for treatment planning;
    • Make impressions of the teeth for plaster study models and mouthguard construction;
    • Provide routine dental treatment for children (age limitations vary per state/territory);
    • Administer anaesthetic injections to numb the teeth and gums;
    • Restore decayed primary (deciduous) and permanent teeth with standard filling materials;
    • Protect the vitality of teeth from extensive decay by pulp capping primary and permanent teeth;
    • Remove the pulp from primary teeth to treat tooth infections or fractures;
    • Extract primary and permanent teeth using non-surgical techniques;
    • Refer patients with complex dental conditions to an appropriate dentist or specialist dentist;
    • Remove plaque, calculus (soft and hard deposits) and stain from teeth;
    • Polish the teeth and dental restorations;
    • Apply decay preventive agents such as fluorides, varnishes and sealants to the teeth;
    • Educate and motivate children, either individually in a dental clinic or through classroom lessons, to maintain good oral health;
    • Educate the community through health promotion campaigns on the principles of preventive dentistry either singularly or in collaboration with allied health professionals: address parents' groups, play groups and citizens' associations; and
    • Consult with those involved in providing nutrition to children: i.e. managers of school canteens, parents, etc.

    The dental therapist’s key roles are in community dentistry and program support activities. Their clinical and promotional work increases access to dental care for children from pre-school age through to the late teen years. Complex cases fall outside the boundaries of the dental therapist skill range and are referred for diagnosis and treatment by a dentist.

    A dental therapist must practice under legislative regulations much like other registered health professionals such as nurses, dentists, physicians, pharmacists, physical therapists, optometrists, osteopaths, chiropractors and psychologists. Registration to practice a dental therapist career requires proof of successful completion of an accredited dental therapy diploma or university degree evidenced by the state dental board and once granted must be renewed annually. Some states may require dental therapists to participate in continuing education courses for the renewal of their registration. The process of registration represents the strongest form of protection for the public from unqualified individuals and unsafe practices.

  • What is a dental therapist?

    A dental therapist is a registered primary healthcare professional that provides restorative and preventive dental services to children, adolescents and teenagers within the public sector servicing metropolitan, rural and remote areas. The dental therapist delivers their services through mobile, community and school dental clinics. In some states and territories the dental therapist can work in private dental practices with variable restrictions of the permitted age groups.

    As a clinician they are required to work in collaboration with a dentist to determine the appropriate treatment procedures for each individual patient. In the mobile and school dental clinics, especially in rural and remote areas, the dental therapist is required to recognise oral conditions, plan and deliver reparative dental treatment, evaluate care and make appropriate referrals to a dentist for complex dentistry.

    Dental therapists work within a team environment in both clinical practice and population-based oral health promotions to assure best practice in providing safe dental healthcare and positive oral health outcomes.

    A dental therapist career would be a good dentistry position for you if you have good time management (efficient), apply attention to detail and precision (accurate), possess good eye-hand coordination, manual dexterity and an artistic ability to construct form and design. In addition, if you have well developed communication and cultural sensitivity skills you have some of the qualities that make you well suited to pursue a dental therapist job.

How to become a dental therapist

  • How do you become a dental therapist in New South Wales?

    Dental therapy offers excellent career opportunities for the high school graduate and non-traditional student (i.e. an individual who is over 23 years of age, an individual seeking a career change or re-entry or an individual from a culturally diverse background).

    New South Wales offers one bachelor degree program (3 years full time) where you graduate with a dual qualification of dental therapy and dental hygiene:

    • The University of Sydney; Cumberland, Sydney Dental Hospital and Westmead campuses - Bachelor of Oral Health. Visit Website

    Your entry to the New South Wales degree program is based on the UAI (University Admission Index), which is your overall academic achievement in the HSC/ACT Year 12. The UAI is considered the best single prediction of tertiary success by most tertiary institutions in Australia. You may also be required to sit selection tests and attend an interview process.

    If you are a non-traditional student the selection criteria will include:

    • Your previous Year 12 studies; and/or
    • Higher education, tertiary or post-secondary qualifications; and/or
    • Overseas qualifications considered equivalent to Australian qualifications.

    Entry to the dental therapy training program is highly competitive and with strict quotas. Having prerequisites of biology and chemistry, and Certificates III and IV in Dental Assisting can be beneficial. Contact your chosen university for more information as requirements may change.

    The Mutual Recognition Act of 1992 allows for dental therapist graduates and practicing dental therapists to apply for registration to practice their equivalent occupation in any state or territory in Australia as well as New Zealand (Trans Tasman Agreement). Enquiries for practice in New South Wales should be made to the Dental Board of NSW for the specific documentation they require. Visit Website

  • If you are considering a dental therapist career you should:

    • Take high school courses in health, biology, chemistry, mathematics, speech and psychology
    • Apply for work experience in a school or community dental clinic
    • Have good vision and manual dexterity
      • To perform independent detailed and precise work
    • Have good interpersonal communication skills
      • To provide information, education and advice to children and parents of diverse cultural backgrounds
      • To instil motivation toward healthy goals
      • To be sensitive to the needs of others
    • Be able to prepare, understand and act on written materials (letters, reports, summaries)
      • To analyse, plan, organise and problem solve
    • Have good organizational and time management skills
    • Enjoy working with others in a team environment
    • Be interested in the delivery of oral health care
    • Selection criteria to an approved course may include having a national police certificate, working with children check, prohibited employment declarations.

Career Paths

  • Dental Therapist Job opportunities

    There is a high demand for dental therapists in the public sector dental health services, especially in the rural and remote areas. Dental therapists have an opportunity to impact on the oral health and general health of current and future generations. Instilling the principles of healthy choices and habits in children fosters a shift towards a healthier outlook for the Australian population.

    Where can I get more dental therapy job information in NSW?
    • Your school careers advisor
    • Your local community dental clinic
    • The Australian Dental and Oral Health Therapists Association, NSW Branch, Inc.
    • Email: nswdta@ADOHTA.net.au
    • Dental therapist labour force in Australia, 2005. AIHW Dental Statistics and Research Unit
    • The Australian Dental Association, Inc. (National) Policy Statement on Allied Dental Professionals in Australia
    • Profile of the Dental Auxiliaries Workforce in NSW 2006 (dental therapists and dental hygienists)
  • What career paths exist for dental therapists?

    Dental therapists can complete further education to advance their career within the dental workforce. Education and training institutions are facilitating expanded and post-graduate qualifications.

    • Dental hygienist expanded qualification
      • Broadens knowledge and skills to provide preventive and therapeutic treatment to people of all ages.
      • Recognition of prior learning taken into account
      • Bridging courses offered:
        • The University of Newcastle; Ourimbah Campus 2 years full time study to complete years 2 and 3 of the Bachelor of Oral Health Degree. Visit Website
    • Graduate Certificates
      • Part time course up to 3 years
      • Broadens individual skills already gained in undergraduate program
      • Curtin University (WA) offers non-clinical Graduate Certificates in areas of health promotion and public health Visit Website
    • Graduate Diplomas
      • Typically 1 to 2 year full time course
      • Develop knowledge and skills in a related professional area
      • Clinical courses in dental therapy are not available in Australia at present
      • The University of New England offers a non-clinical Graduate Diploma in Health Management Visit Website
      • Curtin University (WA) offers non-clinical Graduate Diplomas in areas of health promotion and public health Visit Website
    • Master of Science Degree (MS)
      • 1 to 2 year course
      • Acquiring in-depth understanding of a specific area of knowledge through research, coursework or a combination of both
      • Curtin University (WA) offers non-clinical master degrees in areas of health promotion and public health Visit Website
    • Doctorate Degree (PhD)
      • Typically over 3 years
      • Self-directed research and coursework
      • Doctorate programs are in Dental Hygiene and related disciplines (ex: Community Health)
      • Programs in dental therapy are not available in Australia at present
      • Curtin University (WA) offers a non-clinical doctorate degree in public health
    • BDS Degree (dentist)

More Info

  • A Rewarding Career

    Dental therapists provide essential dental treatment on children to improve, prevent and promote oral health wellness. These actions involve the acquisition of knowledge through consultation, perception and examination and may be provided in independent, interdependent and collaborative relationships with the patient, their parents and the health care team.

    A dental therapy career offers personal satisfaction in providing valuable oral health care services and developing trusting relationships with patients. Flexible work schedules make balancing work and lifestyle needs very achievable.

  • Information websites