What does a Dental Therapist do?

Dental therapists mostly examine and treat diseases of the teeth in pre-school, primary and secondary school children, under the general supervision of dentists.

Dental therapists may perform the following tasks:

  • Educate and motivate children, either on a personal basis in the clinic or through classroom lessons, to maintain good oral health
  • Help educate the community in the principles of preventive dentistry by addressing adult groups such as parents groups, play groups and parents and citizens associations
  • Provide routine dental treatment for children including dental examinations and diagnosis, cleaning, scaling and polishing teeth, filling cavities, extracting deciduous (or baby) teeth under local anaesthetic, treating gum conditions, taking x-rays of teeth and jaws and applying pit and fissure sealants, fluoride therapy and taking impressions for mouthguard construction
  • Bring more complex dental problems to the attention of dentists
  • Work with managers of school canteens, advising them about health food
  • Liaise with other healthcare providers

Some dental therapists work in a particular geographical area and are responsible for visiting a number of local schools on a regular basis. They may be required to work anywhere in their state or territory, although individual preferences and applications for specific positions are taken into account. Others work in community dental clinics or regional centres.

Personal requirements

  • Manual dexterity
  • Able to do precise and detailed work
  • Good communication skills
  • Able to establish rapport with children
  • Able to work as part of a team
What training is required to become a Dental Therapist?

To become a dental therapist you usually have to complete a diploma in oral health therapy. Entry to the course below usually requires completion of your VCE. Prerequisite subjects, or assumed knowledge, in one or more of English or biology are normally required. Contact the university for more information as requirements may change.

Entry to the course is highly competitive and requires passing the Undergraduate Medical and Health Sciences Admission Test (UMAT) and attending a structured interview.

Diploma courses

University of Melbourne
Diploma in Oral Health Therapy, 3 years full-time

Employment opportunities

The public sector oral health services are the major employers of dental therapists. They work in fixed and mobile clinics promoting oral health care to children from pre-school to Year 10. Career opportunities include progression to senior dental therapist or oral health therapist positions coordinating health promotion activities in dental health services State-wide, and positions in research and teaching government policies regarding the oral health of school students.

Job opportunities depend upon:

  • Government funding
  • The number of people eligible for treatment

Additional information

Dental therapists must be registered with the Dental Registration Board of the State in which they intend to work.

Details courtesy of the Job Guide, Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs. 

Federal ADA - Dental Team - Dental Therapist
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