Prospective Dental Therapists
You will do much of the straightforward work that a dentist is able to do under prescription of a dentist or without the need for a referral from a dentist if practicing direct access.
More dentists are adding dental therapists to the practice team to handle much of the routine dental work. Working as a therapist in a dental practice gives you independence without the full responsibility of running a practice. Many dental therapists provide treatment in a range of places in the community; such as hospitals, schools and care homes, general dental practice, HM Prison service and HM ministry of defence (armed forces, royal navy, royal air-force).
Dental therapists are increasingly important members of the dental team and are likely to be a particularly important component of future NHS and Private dental care.
Health education is an important part of the role and the dental therapist can carry out a range of procedures once trained and competent, including:
- intra and extra oral assessment
- scaling and polishing
- applying materials to teeth such as fluoride and fissure sealants
- taking dental radiographs
- giving infiltration and inferior dental block analgesia
- taking impressions
- providing dental health education on a one-to-one basis or in a group situation
- undertaking routine restorations in both primary (baby) teeth and permanent teeth, on adults and children
- place pre-formed crowns on primary teeth
- extracting primary teeth under local infiltration analgesia
Dental therapists can also develop additional skills including:
Dental therapists may treat patients who have high treatment needs.
- carrying out tooth whitening (under prescription of a dentist)
- administering inhalational sedation
- removing sutures after a dentist has checked the wound
The dental therapist may treat a wide range of patients who have high treatment needs, such as 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
Dental Therapists can progress into research, teaching positions or with additional training to become an Orthodontic Therapist.
Entry requirements, skills and interests
To practise as a dental therapist, you must obtain a diploma or degree in dental therapy, be registered on the General Dental Council’s (GDC) and hold professional indemnity insurance.
Each dental school now has different entry requirements and you should check with the individual dental schools of what their requirements are. You can find a list of the dental schools on the Prospective Student Menu Tab.
It is generally a common entry requirement to hold at least 1 A-Level in a core science subject and a dental nursing qualification or 2 A Levels; 1 being in a core science subject and the 2nd in a social science or health-related course.
Not all universities now recognise a dental nursing qualification as part of their entry requirements, we advise you check with the university.
You will need five GCSE subjects at grade A to C and you may also be required to have some experience of dental nursing or shadowing before taking the course although not compulsory at some training institutes.
Due to limited spaces, we advise prospective students who have not had dental nursing experience to contact local dental practices to enquire about shadowing the dental team.
Dental therapists carry out a range of clinical tasks and will often spend valuable time encouraging anxious patients to accept dental treatment. This requires patience, and excellent communication and interpersonal skills. An empathetic and caring approach is very important, in addition to proficient, highly technical clinical skills. You will need to be confident to work on your own and be able to put even the youngest of patients at ease. Much of your work is likely to be with children, older people and those with special needs.
Good time management and organisational skills are essential, along with attention to health and safety procedures. At all times, a dental therapist needs to be mindful of the need for patient confidentiality.
Training and development
The diploma in dental therapy course takes 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.
The BSc programme in dental therapy is a 3 year course and has replaced many of the diploma programmes. Some universities may call the programme BSc Oral Health Sciences, BSc Oral Dental Sciences, BSc Dental Hygiene and Dental Therapy or BSc Dental Therapy.
Standard subjects studied include:
- preventive dentistry
- dental health education
- dental pathology
- simple restorative procedures for both deciduous and permanent teeth
- the extraction of deciduous teeth (previously known as baby teeth)
- radiography and pharmacology
Information sourced from: https://www.healthcareers.nhs.uk/explore-roles/dental-team/roles-dental-team/dental-therapist – Adapted by BADT May 2020.