Purpose and Mission
Dental therapists are healthcare professionals who diagnose and treat diseases of the teeth in pre-school, primary and secondary school children, working under the supervision of a licensed dentist. The work performed by dental therapists includes determining the disease risk, providing preventive treatments, undertaking basic restorative work in “baby” and permanent teeth, the extraction of teeth, and management of oral trauma.
For the most part, dental therapists are employed in the public sector health services agencies (state/territory governments) in Australia. Most are employed in clinics (some mobile) that promote oral health care for children.
All dental therapists are “supervised” by a trained and licensed dentist, but in practice, especially rural or mobile practice, they operate quite independently, often on a more consultative basis with their supervisory dentist.
Many dental therapists are responsible for the operations of their own clinic, including supervising other clinical or administrative staff. Senior dental therapists often oversee and/or train new colleagues.
A three-year Bachelor of Oral Health degree is required for employment as a dental therapist. These programs are in great demand, so you might have to take selection tests and/or participate in an interview process to be admitted. Completing high school biology and chemistry is a very good idea, and earning a Certificate III and/or Certificate IV in Dental Assisting will give you a strong chance of admission.
Responsibilities of a Dental Therapist
College-educated dental therapists are kind of the jack of all trades of the dental profession. They work in various roles, including:
Clinician: Clinical dental therapists are supervised by a dentist, and work in various settings including mobile, school and rural community dental clinics.
Administrator: Dental therapists can help with the coordination of oral health promotion activities for the state and territory dental health services.
Educator: Some dental therapists choose to use the skills and knowledge gained from their experience to teach. This career choice requires earning an advanced degree, such as a Masters or a PhD.
Researcher: Dental therapists can also be involved in medical research. One example might be epidemiological research on childhood oral disease and the benefit of preventive interventions. Research is required to earn an advanced degree, and can be conducted working within the public oral health services or training program or in a lab setting.
Sales and Marketing Manager: Of interest, some dental therapists are employed by companies in the dental industry to manage professional and/or public marketing campaigns. This career choice involves building customer relationships, identifying various demographics and markets and preparing for and participating in trade exhibitions.
Consultant/Writer/Editor: Dental therapists can choose to share their experiences and achievements with other dental professionals by giving educational lectures or courses. Some dental therapists are employed as consultants by dental supply or service firms to prepare/deliver educational materials to other healthcare professionals and the public.