How to become a Oral Health Therapist

Oral health therapists diagnose dental decay and gum diseases, work together with dentists to provide routine oral health care for children and adults, and also help to promote oral health and preventive dental practices among school children and the broader community.

Personal requirements of a Oral Health Therapist

  • Interested in health and wellbeing
  • Good hand–eye coordination
  • Able to do precise and detailed work
  • Good communication skills
  • Able to establish rapport with both children and adults
  • Able to work as part of a team

Education & Training for a Oral Health Therapist

To become an oral health therapist you usually have to study oral health at university. To get into these courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education. Prerequisite subjects, or assumed knowledge, in one or more of English, mathematics, biology, chemistry and physics are normally required. Entry is highly competitive and there may be a strict quota. You may also need to sit selection assessments and attend an interview before acceptance into the course. A number of universities in Australia offer degrees in oral health. Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information. For full details, refer to the entries on the website at www.goodcareersguide.com.au or university handbooks.

Duties & Tasks of a Oral Health Therapist

Oral health therapists may perform the following tasks:

  • educate and motivate people to maintain good oral health
  • promote oral health in the community by providing relevant education and information, and working with other health services and groups such as parents’ groups, play groups and parents and citizens’ associations, residential care settings and schools
  • work to improve oral health within child care and elderly residential care and other health support settings, especially those that cater to people who do not have access to dental care
  • provide routine dental treatment for people of all ages, including dental examinations and diagnosis, cleaning, scaling and polishing teeth, filling cavities and extracting deciduous (baby) teeth under local anaesthetic
  • treat people of all ages for gum conditions, take X-rays of teeth and jaws, apply sealants and fluoride therapy, and take impressions for mouthguard construction
  • bring more complex dental problems to the attention of dentists
  • liaise with other healthcare providers to support oral health as part of general health.

Working conditions for a Oral Health Therapist

Oral health therapists who work in the public sector may be required to work anywhere in their state or territory, although individual preferences and applications for specific positions are taken into account.

Employment Opportunities for a Oral Health Therapist

Oral health therapists may be employed by any clinic that provides dental services to the public, in both the private sector (general and specialist practices) and the public sector (school and community dental services, hospitals, and disability and residential care settings). Government dental services are the major employers of oral health therapists, although therapists may also own their own practices. Opportunities for career progression include positions in research and teaching, and senior clinical and administrative positions coordinating health promotion activities in dental health services state- or territory-wide.

Additional Information
Before undertaking clinical placements required by courses, students will need to obtain a National Police Certificate, a Provide First Aid Certificate and immunisations, and undergo a Working with Children Check. Students may also be required to be tested for blood-borne transmissible viruses (such as hepatitis B and HIV). Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information. It is a legal requirement for graduates to be registered with the Dental Board of Australia before practising as an oral health therapist in any state or territory in Australia.
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