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Summary of occupation

Dentists take care of patients' teeth and gums by diagnosing and treating injuries, problems and abnormalities. Their wide range of duties includes repairing or removing broken and decayed teeth, treating infections and diseases of the roots or nerves, and cleaning teeth. Other tasks may include the design and fitting of dental crowns, bridges or dentures.

ANZSCO description: Diagnoses and treats dental disease, injuries, decay and malformations of the teeth, periodontal tissue (gums), hard and soft tissue found on the mouth and other dento-facial structures using surgery and other techniques. Registration or licensing is required.
Alternative names: Dental Practitioner, Dental Surgeon
Specialisations: Endodontist, Orthodontist, Paediatric Dentist, Periodontist
Job prospects: Average
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

A dentist needs:

  • patience and understanding
  • the ability to undertake detailed work
  • high levels of concentration
  • good communication skills
  • good organisational skills.
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Working conditions

Dentists work mainly in public or private dental clinics. Hours can vary according to the opening times of the clinic in which dentists are employed. Some dentists may be on-call 24 hours a day to attend to emergency dental work. Demand for dentists in Western Australia is high, with some being required to help in remote areas when necessary. A dentist’s work environment needs to be highly sterile to prevent infection to clients and themselves.

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Salary details

On average, dentists can expect to earn between $1 873 and $2 444 per week ($97 409 and $127 109 per year), depending on the organisation they work for, and their level of experience. 

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Tools and technologies

Dentists work with a large range of dental tools and equipment, such as drills, mouth mirrors, retractors, syringes and x-ray machines. Such equipment must always be clean and sterile to prevent the incidence or spread of infection.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a dentist, you must complete a bachelor degree in any discipline and then complete postgraduate study in dentistry.  

The Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) is offered at the University of Western Australia and usually takes four years to complete. Entry requirements include the completion of a bachelor degree in any discipline. You must also sit the Graduate Australian Medical Schools Admissions Test (GAMSAT) and attend an interview. Contact the University of Western Australia for more information. 

Graduates must be registered with the Dental Board of Australia to be able to practice dentistry 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.

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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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