Dental therapists, sometimes known as oral health practitioners, work to ensure patients in the community are given dental support in a clinical and educational manner. Under the supervision of a dental practitioner, a dental therapist would extract milk teeth, polish teeth, remove plaque, and apply simple fillings. Educational teaching of people in the community on dental health would also form part of the role.
In order to become a dental therapist you will need to ascertain an award in a dental course as approved by the General Dental Council (GDC). A Diploma in Dental Therapy is required if you wish to enter the profession, which would typically last a total of 27 months. Hospitals around the country offer such courses, and you can check with The British Association of Dental Therapists (BADT) for approved courses.
In order to get onto a dental therapy course you will first need to attain a minimum of five GCSEs graded A – C, after which you will need to ascertain two A Levels, preferably including one science. You may choose to partake in a dental nursing course as an alternative to A Levels. Courses for dental therapists would include the teaching of dental health education, dental pathology and simple recuperative procedures.
Work experience with a dental clinic during your time at high school or college may help when you are applying for a dental therapy course. This will demonstrate your willingness to work hard in order to achieve your goals. Dental therapy courses would include work experience, gained in a clinical environment under the supervision of more experienced practitioners.
Career pathway after graduation
You will need to register with the GDC in order to be recognised as a professional dental therapist. Your skills will be maintained through a continuing development programme every five years, which will involve seminars and courses to maintain your skills. Once graduated you may choose to work at a dental clinic under the supervision of a dental practitioner. With experience you will take on more responsibility and play a key role in the functioning of a dental practice.