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Dental therapist

Dental therapist

Dental therapists (sometimes also known as oral health practitioners) are the rarest members of the dental team, with approximately 380 on the General Dental Council Roll in 2002. A registered dentist must examine the patient and indicate clearly in writing the course of treatment that the dental therapist needs to carry out.

Like the dental hygienist, the dental therapist has an important role in promoting dental health. They will treat adults and children. Since July 2002, dental therapists have been able to work in all sectors of dentistry including general dental practice.

A Dental therapist can carry out a range of procedures, including:

  • intra and extra oral assessment
  • scaling and polishing
  • applying materials to teeth such as fluoride and fissure sealants
  • taking dental radiographs
  • providing dental health education on a one to one basis or in a group situation
  • undertaking routine restorations in both deciduous and permanent teeth, on adults and children
  • using all materials except pre cast or pinned placements
  • extracting deciduous teeth under local infiltration analgesia

Provided that they have completed appropriate training, dental therapists can, perform such extended duties as the following:

  • undertaking the pulp therapy treatment of deciduous teeth.
  • placing pre formed crowns on deciduous teeth.
  • administering inferior dental nerve block analgesia under the supervision of a dentist.
  • providing emergency temporary replacement of crowns and fillings.
  • taking impressions.
  • treating patients under conscious sedation provided the dentist remains in the surgery throughout the treatment.

The dental therapist may treat a wide range of high treatment needs patients, from those who:

  • are dentally anxious.
  • are medically compromised.
  • are physically disabled.
  • have learning disabilities.
  • have high levels of untreated decay.
  • are unable to access regular dental care in the general dental service.

Entry requirements

Five GCSE subjects graded A - C, plus two A levels or a recognised qualification in dental nursing. You may also be required to have some experience of dental nursing before taking the course. To practice, you must be on the General Dental Councils roll of dental therapists. You achieve this by obtaining the diploma in dental therapy offered by a number of hospitals.

Skills

As clinical decisions will ultimately be based on the needs of the individual patient, the dental therapist will have autonomy over the way that the treatment plan is undertaken. This will include the choice of instruments and materials to be used, which requires expert knowledge and skills.

A clinical session will vary from day to day, with the dental therapist carrying out a range of clinical tasks. The dental therapists will often spend valuable time encouraging anxious patients to accept dental treatment. This requires patience, excellent communication skills, and interpersonal skills. An empathetic and caring approach is very important, in addition to proficient, highly technical clinical skills.

Good time management in addition to organisational skills, with attention to health and safety procedures are essential. At all times a dental therapist is mindful of the need for patient confidentiality.

Training

The length of the diploma course is about 27 months, depending on the dental hospital at which you study. Some dental schools offer part time courses for dental hygienists wishing to qualify as dental therapists. 

Subjects studied include preventive dentistry, dental health education, dental pathology, simple restorative procedures for both deciduous and permanent teeth, the extraction of deciduous teeth, radiography and pharmacology.

Use our coursefinder to search for courses in dental therapy leading to registration with the GDC.

Financial support for students on dental therapy courses

For information about financial support whilst taking a degree course in dental therapy, please click here.

How to apply

Apply to the schools of dental therapy of your choice. Demand for training is increasing and your chances of gaining a place will be enhanced if you have relevant qualifications and experience.

Registration

In order to practice, a dental therapist must be registered with the General Dental Council (GDC). You can contact the GDC at:

General Dental Council
37 Wimpole Street
London
W1G 8DQ
Telephone: 020 7887 3800
Fax: 020 7224 3294
Email: CAIT@gdc-uk.org
Website: www.gdc-uk.org

Continuing personal and professional development (CPD)

Throughout the career of the dental therapist, it is expected that they will keep up to date with the latest techniques, and developments, including best practise.

CPD may well be identified through individual performance reviews. Any CPD activity needs to be recorded by the dental therapist, as this will form part of the mandatory requirements of the General Dental Council's annual registration on the dental therapists roll.

Career prospects

Dental therapists with experience can progress to become practice managers or move into research work. They can also move into teaching roles or with further training and experience, dental therapists can work as orthodontic therapists.

Further information

For further information about a career as a dental therapist, contact:

British Association of Dental Therapists
Providence House
11 The Broadway
Sandhurst
Berkshire GU47 9AB

Tel: 07800  728082
Email: secretary@badt.org.uk
Website: www.badt.org.uk

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