Who’s who in the dental hygiene department?

Dental Therapist, Dental Hygienist and Oral Health Therapist—they all sound the same but where does one start and the other one end?

While all roles are registered primary healthcare professionals, the different titles can get confusing—with this in mind, we thought we’d dedicate time to briefly explaining the differences between Dental Therapists, Dental Hygienists and Oral Health Therapists.

Dental Therapists

A Dental Therapist examines and treats the teeth of pre-school, primary and secondary school children, under the supervision of a dentist either in private and/or public clinics.
They’re like a ‘mini-dentist’ for children and teenagers. There are some restrictions with the different locations of fillings that Dental Therapists can perform and they are unable to perform a ‘full root canal’
on a baby tooth.

Dental Therapists educate and motivate children to maintain good oral health, and provide routine dental treatment for children including:
dental examinations;

  • cleaning and polishing teeth;
  • filling cavities;
  • extracting baby teeth under local anaesthetic;
  • taking X-rays of teeth and jaws;
  • applying pit and fissure sealants;
  • fluoride therapy; and
  • taking impressions for mouth guard construction.

Dental Therapists can also provide treatment for adult patients with a focus on gum health. You’ll see us working in private dental practices alongside the dentist.
Dental Therapists support dentists by providing oral health assessment, treatment, management and preventive services for adults of all ages.

Dental Hygienists

A Dental Hygienist is highly skilled in preventive services on all age groups without cutting or removing teeth.

As a clinician they work in collaboration with a dentist to determine therapeutic treatment for each individual patient, but work independently in delivering their dental services. They work within a team environment to assure best practice in providing safe and appropriate dental healthcare.

Dental Hygienists also overlap with some of the services provided by Dental Therapists, as well as other duties for example they:

  • assess patients’ oral health and report findings to dentists;
  • remove tartar or calculus, stains, and plaque from teeth;
  • take and develop dental x rays;
  • applying sealants and fluorides to help protect teeth;
  • taking impressions for mouth guard construction;
  • educate patients about oral hygiene techniques, such as how to brush and floss correctly; and
  • document patient care and treatment plans.

Dental Hygienists can also provide treatment for patients within the orthodontic field (the specialty focussed on straightening teeth) thereby:

  • take impressions for orthodontic purposes;
  • remove brackets, bands, arch wires, modules, ligature wire, power chain and thread, coil springs, elastic, separating elastics;
  • place and fix arch wires;
  • select and prepare bands for cementation;
  • re-cement loose bands; and
  • remove orthodontic cement and materials after band and bracket removal.

Oral Health Therapists

Last but not least, Oral Health Therapists—like Bite’s Preethy—provide primary oral health care for children and adults, and have qualifications in both dental therapy and dental hygiene. Therefore they can perform any of the procedures listed above.

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