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Dental Therapist: Job Description, Education Requirements & Salary

Individuals who are interested in the dental health field may want to check out a career as a dental therapist. This article explores the role and salary of dental therapists, as well as the training requirements for this career.

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Career Definition of a Dental Therapist

Dental therapists are dental health professionals who fill a role that falls in between that of dental hygienists and dentists. They are required to have more training than dental hygienists, and their specific duties may vary based on the state where they work. In some states they may be responsible for sedating patients prior to dental procedures. They may also provide dental health care by cleaning patients' teeth or applying materials used to prevent cavities. Dental therapists might also put crowns on teeth.

In addition to providing direct care to patients, dental therapists also perform tests that can be used for diagnosis. As part of their duties they may construct dental appliances, such as mouthguards. They are also responsible for informing patients about their dental health and how to care for their teeth and gums. Other duties they may perform include setting up dental equipment for appointments and interacting with dentists to confirm diagnoses.

Educational Requirements Bachelor's degree; license
Job Skills Communication skills, customer service experience, interpersonal abilities, decision-making skills, attention to detail
Mean Salary (2017)* $33.38 per hour
Job Outlook (2016-2026)** 20% (dental hygienists)

Sources: *PayScale.com; **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

In order to pursue a career as a dental therapist it's necessary to earn at least a bachelor's degree in a field such as dental therapy. Dental therapists must also be licensed by their state. Some employers may prefer applicants who have a master's degree in dental therapy. There may also be specific certifications that employers prefer or require, depending on the state, such as the Nitrous Oxide/Oxygen Analgesia certification that teaches dental professionals to use nitrous oxide to sedate patients.

Required Skills

Dental therapists provide care directly to patients so they should have good customer service and communication skills in order to interact effectively with their patients. Communication skills are also important because these therapists must confer with the dentist and other dental professionals. They should excel at paying attention to details because they are responsible for examining patients and identifying dental health issues according to all relevant symptoms. Strong decision-making skills are also important to effectively diagnose patients and determine the treatment that they need.

Career Outlook and Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides occupational data for dental hygienists, which includes dental therapists. Per the BLS, dental hygienists, including dental therapists, should see job growth of 20% from 2016 to 2026. PayScale.com provides salary data for dental therapists and reports that as of 2017 they earned a mean hourly income of $33.38.

Related Careers

There are a number of related careers that aspiring dental therapists may be interested in, such as physician assistant, dental hygienist or various technician positions. Links to information about these similar careers are provided here.

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