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Dental therapist

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Summary of occupation

Dental therapists diagnose dental decay and gum disease in children and adults, under the supervision of a dentist. They are also involved in oral health education with children, parents and the community. They perform routine dental treatment under the supervision of a dentist, including examination, cleaning, scaling and filling cavities. They also may take x-rays and take impressions for mouth guards. They refer more complex dental problems to the dentist.

ANZSCO description: Examines and treats diseases of the teeth in preschool, primary and secondary school children under the general supervision of a Dentist. Registration or licensing is required.
Alternative names:
Specialisations: Dental Hygienist, Oral Health Therapist, Therapist (Dental)
Job prospects: Average
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

A dental therapist needs:

  • good verbal and written communication skills
  • good hand-eye coordination
  • to be able to complete precise and detailed work
  • to be able to establish good rapport with children
  • to be able to work as part of a team.
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Working conditions

Dental therapists work normal working hours, Monday to Friday. Dental therapists employed in the public sector may have to relocate to a regional area.

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Salary details

According to industry, dental therapists can expect to earn approximately $1150.00 per week (full-time and before tax).

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Tools and technologies

Dental therapists typically use x-ray equipment and a variety of hand-powered tools specially designed for teeth, for example drills and polishers.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a dental therapist you usually have to study oral health at university. To get into the listed course, you usually need to gain your WACE at Stages 2 and 3. Entry is highly competitive. You will also need to attend an interview.

Curtin University (Bentley campus) offers a Bachelor of Science (Oral Health Therapy).

Before undertaking the clinical placements as required by courses, students may be required to obtain the relevant police clearances, immunisations and Working with Children checks. In July 2010, a new National Registration and Accreditation Scheme came into effect for a number of health occupations, including dentistry.

State and regional boards assist the Dental Board of Australia by implementing these national standards and policies. For full details, see the Board’s website. It is a legal requirement for graduates to be registered with the Board before being able to practice as a dental therapist in any state/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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