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What is an Oral Health Therapist? by Erin Page, OHT

17th January 2019

What is a Dental Hygienist? What is a Dental Therapist? And how are you all different from a dentist?

When many of us were young the family dentist managed the entire family’s appointments but these days with dentistry rapidly evolving to include more and more complex and time consuming procedures a Dentist’s repertoire has grown. It is not unusual for dentist’s to now include gum grafting, implants and surgical procedures, fixed and removable prosthetics, Root canal therapy, orthodontics and even facial aesthetics such as dermal fillers to their daily schedules. Many dental practices are now utilizing mid-level dental professionals such as Oral Health Therapists, Dental Hygienists or Dental Therapists to manage their routine preventative and maintenance procedures as well as children’s dentistry.

If you haven’t heard of these dental roles, that’s ok. Neither had I until I joined the dental workforce several years ago. Many patients would have encountered one of these dental professionals sometime throughout their dental experiences, most patients just don’t realise at the time.

Dental Hygienists (DH/RDH’s) are registered dental professionals holding either a Bachelor of Oral Health in Dental Hygiene or Advanced Diploma in Dental Hygiene. Dental Hygienists have been a part of the dental team for almost 100 years and have been known to manage routine dental hygiene appointments, taking radiographs, periodontal therapy and maintenance, orthodontic work and oral hygiene education to patients of all ages.

Dental Therapists (DT’s) are registered dental professionals who treat children up to the age of 18 years. Their role was first introduced for the school dental service in 1967 to bridge the gap in children’s dental services. A Dental Therapists role includes routine examinations, cleans, fillings, pit and fissure sealants, pulp therapy, extraction of baby teeth, placing stainless steel crowns, restoring cavities, taking x-rays and oral health education. In addition to their standard dental studies, most dental therapists are also trained in child psychology, special needs, child development and behavior management to aid in better treating children. Most children who visit the dental van at school today will be treated by a Dental Therapist or an Oral Health Therapist.

Oral Health Therapists (OHT’s) are registered dental professionals holding a dual degree in both Dental Hygiene and Dental Therapy who can treat patients of all ages. In addition to these skills many have extended scope to including routine orthodontic procedures, basic prosthetic work such as making mouth guards, using lasers and restoring adult teeth.

Oral Health Therapists, Dental Hygienists and Dental Therapists play an important role within the dental team and work alongside Dentists and Dental Specialists while always maintaining a strong focus on preventative care and patient education. All mid dental providers work as part of the dental team, practicing autonomous decision making with their patients and liase or refer with Dentists on treatment outside their abilities. Many patients refer to us as a “Mini Dentist” as we hold many of the same skills but leave the more complex work up our colleges with “Dr.” in front of their names.

At Absolutely Dental, we are lucky to support a growing team of 2 Oral Health Therapists, Erin Page and Lauren Stanta and our Children’s Dental Therapist Karen Ward. We pride ourselves on taking the time to work through our patients concerns and feel confident knowing each patient leaves with a smile and a new toothbrush- and knowing how to use it of course!

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