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How to become a Dental Therapist

dental therapist careers

What does a Dental Therapist do?

Dental therapists work as part of a team providing clinical and educational care for children and adults in the community, including those with special needs.

They carry out clinical work under the direction and written prescription of a dentist. This can include:

  • removal of plaque and calculus
  • application of antibacterial and de-sensitising agents
  • polishing the teeth
  • application of fissure sealants and fluorides
  • taking radiographs
  • replacing temporary fillings and crowns
  • undertaking simple fillings
  • extracting deciduous (milk) teeth
  • administering certain types of local anaesthetic, unsupervised.
Dental therapists use a range of instruments and may be assisted by a dental nurse during the course of their work. Due to the close personal contact involved with patients, dental therapists ensure sterile conditions are maintained.

Therapists also have an important educational role. This includes teaching and motivating individual patients and groups in the community to maintain effective oral hygiene and to care for their teeth.

Dental therapists work in all aspects of dentistry including the Community Dental Service, Hospital Service, local NHS and private dental practices.

What's the working environment like working as a Dental Therapist?

Most dental therapists work 37 hours a week from around 9.00am to 5.00pm, although part-time work is possible.

Working in the Community Dental Service may involve travelling to various places, such as schools and community centres.

Dental surgeries and clinics are clean, well lit and airy. A coat or tunic, surgical gloves, eye protection and mask are worn to reduce the risk of cross infection.

What does it take to become a Dental Therapist?

To be a dental therapist you should:

  • be genuinely interested in the welfare of your patients
  • have a real interest and ability in science
  • have a high level of manual dexterity and good eyesight
  • be able to concentrate for long periods of time
  • have excellent communication skills to explain treatment to patients and instruct people on dental hygiene
  • be friendly and sympathetic to put anxious patients at ease
  • be able to relate well to a wide range of people including children and people with special needs
  • be able to work well in a team
  • be able to work independently without supervision.

Dental Therapist Career Opportunities

There are approximately 380 enrolled dental therapists in the UK, working in NHS and private practices. Some may work self-employed on a freelance basis.

They are also able to work in the new Personal Dental Services and will probably be employed in the proposed Dental Access Units.

There is no structure for career progression for dental therapists although some go on to become practice managers. Some therapists take a Certificate in Oral Health Education and specialise in health promotion.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Dental Therapist that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

NHS Learning and Development Service
Tel: 08000 150 850
Email: learning@nhscareers.nhs.uk

NHS Careers
PO Box 376
Bristol
BS99 3EY
Tel: 0845 606 0655
www.nhscareers.nhs.uk

British Association of Dental Therapists
Kate Oakes
24 Boundary Street
Brynmawr
Gwent
NP23 4EX
www.badt.org.uk

The General Dental Council
37 Wimpole Street
London
W1G 8DQ
Tel: 020 7887 3800
www.gdc-uk.org

School of Professionals Complementary to Dentistry
St George's Building
141 High Street
Portsmouth
PO1 2HY
Tel: 023 9284 5222
www.port.ac.uk

Courses to help you become a Dental Therapist