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Dental hygienist

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Summary of occupation

Dental hygienists assist dentists in providing oral health therapies and education. They consult with dentists to determine the appropriate treatment for patients, but are able to carry out most procedures independently. They examine patients' teeth and gum for signs of disease, remove plaque build-up and stains, and advise patients on how to look after the teeth and gums to maintain oral health. These workers also take x-rays, make impressions of patients' mouths to make mouth guards and study casts, and select, size and remove orthodontic appliances, such as braces. In some cases, dental hygienists may also assist dentists in surgery.

ANZSCO description: Carries out preventative dental procedures under the direction of a Dentist. Registration or licensing is required.
Alternative names:
Job prospects: Average
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

A dental hygienist needs:

  • good hand-eye coordination
  • manual dexterity
  • good communication skills
  • to be able to work as part of a team.
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Working conditions

Dental hygienists work as part of a team at general dental practices throughout Western Australia. There is a strong demand for dental hygienists in rural and regional areas. They generally work regular office hours, Monday to Friday, though some may also work on Saturdays.

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Salary details

On average, dental hygienists, technicians and therapists can expect to earn between $1 000 and $1 249 per week ($52 000 and $64 999 per year), depending on the organisation they work for, and their level of experience. As a dental hygienist develops their skills, their earning potential will generally increase.

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Tools and technologies

Dental hygienists use a range of specialised dental equipment to look inside the mouth, remove plaque from teeth and help keep the mouth clear and relatively dry during examinations and procedures. They must also use sterilising equipment and protective clothing, such as gloves and a mask. When educating patients about correct oral health care they use models and charts to demonstrate the correct brushing and flossing techniques and the effects of different diseases.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a dental therapist, you usually have to complete a degree in oral health.

Curtin University offers the three year Bachelor of Science (Oral Health Therapy). This is the only course in Western Australia accredited by the Dental Board of Australia for oral health therapists. Contact the university for more information.

To work as dental therapist you must be registered with the Dental Board of Australia to practise in any state or territory in Australia.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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