How to become a Dentist

Dentists diagnose and treat oral diseases, injuries and abnormalities of jaws, teeth and gums, undertake preventive procedures, conduct surgery and perform other specialist techniques.

Personal requirements of a Dentist

  • Good hand–eye coordination
  • Able to do precise and detailed work
  • Good communication skills
  • Able to concentrate for long periods
  • Sympathetic and caring

Education & Training for a Dentist

To become a dentist you usually have to complete a degree in dentistry, dental science or dental surgery at university. Alternatively, you can complete a degree in a related field followed by a postgraduate qualification in dentistry, dental surgery or dental medicine. To get into the degree 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 you usually need to sit the Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admission Test (UMAT) and attend a structured interview. You may also be required to complete a structured oral assessment. Entry to postgraduate courses usually requires completion of an appropriate bachelor degree and may require completion of the Graduate Australian Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT). A number of universities in Australia offer these degrees. 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 Dentist

Dentists may perform the following tasks:

  • examine patients’ teeth and gums using dental equipment and X-rays
  • diagnose dental conditions and plan oral health care in consultation with patients
  • clean teeth and cavities, and provide preventive care such as scaling, cleaning and fluoride therapy
  • repair decayed and broken teeth by rebuilding tooth structures and providing crowns and bridges
  • treat diseases of the roots, gums and soft tissues of the mouth
  • perform routine surgical procedures, such as extracting teeth, as well as complex operations on the jaws and soft tissues
  • give local anaesthetics when necessary for carrying out treatment, and prescribe other medicines for infection or pain
  • design and fit dentures, crowns and bridges for the replacement of lost or unsound teeth
  • refer patients to dental specialists for further treatment.

Employment Opportunities for a Dentist

Most dentists work in private practice. Some are also employed within state or territory governments. Opportunities for careers in teaching and research also exist, mainly within universities and dental training institutions. Demand for dental services depends upon demographic factors such as the size and age of the population, the general economic climate, the extent of private health cover and public awareness of new services available. Demand for dentists in the public sector depends upon government funding policies.

Specialisations:


Endodontist

An endodontist diagnoses and treats diseases and injuries to the soft tissues within the hollow core of the tooth.


Oral/Maxillofacial Surgeon

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons conduct surgery and relevant procedures to prevent disease and infection in the mouth region. They normally work within a dental practice or medical institution and those working in a 24-hour capacity may be on call.


Orthodontist

Orthodontists specialise in correcting misalignments of the teeth and jaw. They provide non-surgical treatments to alleviating a number of problems, including speech defects, chewing difficulties and poor oral hygiene.


Paediatric Dentist

A paediatric dentist deals with children's dental health.


Periodontist

A periodontist prevents and treats diseases of the gums and supporting tissues.


Prosthodontist

A prosthodontist restores and/or replaces teeth and their associated parts.


Public Health Dentist

A public health dentist works with the community, researching and facilitating community dental programmes.


Special Needs Dentist

A special needs dentist treats patients with conditions that require special techniques to manage dental problems.

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 being able to practise as a dentist in any state or territory in Australia. For full details, see the board’s website.
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