Explore a career as an oral health therapist

December 2, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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A Gap Medics student shadowing dentists at Hang Dong Hospital in Chiang Mai, Thailand An oral health therapist provides oral healthcare for people of all ages, from small children to adolescents and older people. Their responsibilities are diverse and range from prevention of dental problems to curing these problems and advising people on oral health. As an oral therapist, you could choose to work in the private sector or could work in the public health sector where you would be a part of major awareness programs around the country.


Roles and responsibilities of an oral health therapist

Oral therapists who work in the private sector often work with children and young adults. They educate their young patients on how to take care of their teeth, gums and jaws. Some oral therapists also help with scaling, cleaning and polishing of teeth and filling of cavities. Depending on the settings, they may also be required to take X-rays or carry out tests to determine if the patient is suffering from any underlying health problems.

In the public sector, these professionals may work in community centres to provide and spread awareness of oral hygiene to the general population. They also often undertake projects where they promote the importance of oral health hygiene in select locations such as school canteens and other places that provide food. The main idea is to try and improve oral health right from the source. Some therapists connect with various associations like play groups and parent groups to conduct lectures and spread awareness of oral hygiene.


Qualification requirements for an oral health therapist

To practice as an oral therapist, it is necessary to gain a Bachelor’s degree in Oral Health. Getting into these courses could be difficult since it is a very competitive field. You would typically need to have taken English, Chemistry and Biology as prerequisite subjects to qualify. Some schools then require you to take an entrance test and also have interviews for selecting their students. Certain schools also ask students to take the UMAT exam. Students studying dental therapy or dental hygiene may also have access to supplementary courses in oral therapy in their school.


Job opportunities for oral therapists

There is no dearth of job opportunities for oral therapists in the public sector as well as the private sector. You could either attach yourself to a private dental clinic or you could work in hospitals, schools, community centres and residential care settings. Some oral hygienists also choose to have their own practices.

If you do not want to practice, you could also consider taking up a job in the educational field or explore various administrative positions that coordinate dental services around the country. For anyone who loves the idea of living in rural or remote areas, there are a number of opportunities for oral therapists in various island communities across NSW.

Registering with the Dental Board of Australia is a mandatory requirement before you can start practicing in this specialty.