Difference Between Dental Therapist & Dentist

Dental therapists and dentists do much of the same work. Their main differences are in their education and where they work. This article gives you details on these two healthcare careers and information about their salaries.

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Comparing Dental Therapists to Dentists

A patient's oral health is the main concern of both dental therapists and dentists. Dentists are health care practitioners who treat the teeth and gums after earning a doctorate, whereas dental therapists can provide services after completing an undergraduate or master's degree program in one of the two states where these professionals are allowed to practice. A comparison of these two careers can be found below along with some career and salary information on them.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Hourly Wage Job Growth (2014-2024)
Dental Therapist Varies by state; ranges from 2-year certificate to master's degree $33.38 (2017)* N/A
Dentist Doctoral degree $73.99 (2016)** 18%**

Sources: *, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Dental Therapists vs Dentists

Dental therapists and dentists have some similar responsibilities when it comes to oral health care. To be more exact, one provides general oral health care to children and people in isolated regions without a lot of regular dentists, while the other channels his or her skills to provide a full range of dental services to patients. Both dental therapists and dentists look after everything from cavities to gum inflammation. However, the work of dental therapists is done under the supervision of licensed dentists who consult with therapists to determine the appropriate course of action and, in some cases, approve their work before a patient leaves the office.

Dental Therapist

Many dental therapists can be found working in clinics. They may travel into rural and isolated areas that are hard pressed to find local dentistry services. Dental therapists can usually perform many of the same procedures as dentists, though some states require therapists to be supervised by dentists when performing such tasks as pulling deciduous teeth and removing stitches. However, some of the tasks dental therapists can perform without a dentist present are listed below.

Job responsibilities of a dental therapist include:

  • Promoting health through instruction in preventative and proper oral care
  • Removing plaque and tartar using dental tools around the gumline
  • Taking X-rays for diagnostic purposes
  • Administering local anesthetics to affected areas


Dentists, like any physician, know that people's overall health can be influenced by such factors as how well they take care of their teeth. A dentist's job is to check out any problems with patients' gums and teeth. They use a variety of tools and technologies to find cavities, checking their severity and depth. They also do polishings and bleachings, in addition to more advanced tasks, such as prescribing pain meds and monitoring their patients after any procedure that might be considered severe enough.

Job responsibilities of a dentist include:

  • Interpreting all examinations and imaging
  • Removing tissue that's diseased
  • Performing root canals and surgical procedures
  • Building models for dentures

Related Careers

Dental therapists place major importance on patients' oral health care, similar to dental hygienists. These professionals are trained to aid dentists in the proper assessing and cleaning of patients' teeth. Dentists diagnose and monitor gum disease and tooth decay, and someone interested in oral health care may also be interested in working as an orthodontist who performs adjustments to help align patients' teeth.

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