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Purpose and Mission
Oral health is an important part of general health and it means much more than having healthy teeth. It means preventing chronic mouth and facial pain, oral sores and lesions, and treating birth defects such as cleft palate and cleft lip, oral and throat cancer, periodontal (gum) disease, tooth decay/loss and other diseases and disorders that affect the oral, dental and craniofacial cavities.
Oral healthcare professionals provide preventive, restorative, cosmetic and emergency services. Oral health professionals make up a team that undertakes routine dental care such as dental examinations, diagnosis, cleaning, scaling and polishing teeth, extracting teeth, filling cavities and root canals. They also treat gum disease and take X-rays, apply sealants and take impressions of teeth. An important part of being a part of the oral health practitioner is to motivate and educate people on good practices in oral healthcare.
Careers in oral health include:
More educated and experienced oral health professionals may have some supervisory responsibilities in terms of managing less-experienced members of the team.
The qualifications to become an oral health professional vary by position. It might take five or six years to become a dentist, whereas you can learn to become a dental assistant in less than a year.
All types of oral health specialists must be registered with the Dental Board of Australia before they can practise in Australia.
Responsibilities of Oral Health Professionals
Oral health practitioners work in clinics or dentist offices dental services to the public, in both the private sector, and the public sector such as schools, community dental services, hospitals, disability and residential care settings. Government dental services are the major employers of oral health therapists (although they may also own their own practices). Opportunities for career progression include positions in research and teaching, and senior clinical and administrative positions coordinating health promotion activities in dental health services state or territory-wide.
If you are considering a career in dentistry and oral health, you should:
Oral health professionals also teach healthy food choices and oral health care to children and families. They can play a critical role in positively influencing the oral health of future generations.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), in 2012: