What does a dentist do?

A dentist examines the mouth and teeth, and diagnoses oral disease and other dental problems. In consultation with patients, they formulate treatment plans for people of all ages and from varying socio-economic backgrounds. By educating patients on best-practice oral care, and issues such as proper plaque removal and reducing or ceasing smoking and excessive sugar consumption, they also work towards long-term oral health outcomes. Comprehensive dental work includes dental charting, keeping detailed records, periodontal disease and oral cancer screening, jaw analysis, saliva testing, and teeth whitening.

Tasks:

  • Examining teeth
  • Regular scaling and fluoride treatments
  • Treating gum disease and tooth decay
  • Formulating treatment plans
  • Tooth extraction

What skills do I need to be a dentist?

Dentists require an aptitude for science and medical studies, and must have completed relevant tertiary qualifications in oral health and dentistry. They also require patience, and the ability to soothe nervous patients. Dentists must be comfortable with medical procedures such as administering injections and performing oral surgery. Dentistry courses are highly competitive and often have limited places so applicants must perform well in the Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admission Test (UMAT) before embarking on tertiary studies in dentistry.
Skills/attributes
  • Good eyesight
  • Manual dexterity
  • Intense concentration
  • Genuine care for patients
  • Ability to use specialist equipment

Specialisations

Dentistry is a huge industry, offering many different career paths that allow you to tailor your studies and training to help you find fulfilment in your professional work. Below are just some of the popular specialisations in the field of dentistry.

Orthodontist

This highly lucrative career involves the straightening of teeth using equipment such as braces, retainers, and orthodontic bands. Orthodontists also diagnose oral disease and treat injuries, abnormalities and deformities of the teeth and mouth, including the jaw. They use surgery and other procedures to achieve the best health outcomes for patients. This highly specialised field requires postgraduate study, licensing and registration.

Paediatric dentist

Paediatric dentists work with children from birth to adolescence. They examine the teeth and mouth, diagnose oral health issues and formulate treatment plans. Paediatric dentists also educate children on the importance of oral hygiene, proper brushing techniques, and the impact of a poor diet on oral health and tooth decay. This career path requires relevant tertiary qualifications and licensing.

Periodontist

A periodontist treats the gums and bone structure that support the teeth. This speciality area requires a high level of training and expertise. They may treat conditions such as gingivitis or perform oral surgery or more serious oral health problems. Periodontists typically work in private practice and have their patients referred by general dental practitioners, so building and maintaining relationships with other dentists is critical to building a successful practice.

Prosthodontist/Cosmetic Dentist

A prosthodontist works in cosmetic dentistry. They work to enhance patients’ appearance by replacing missing teeth with dentures and bridges, and often treat those who have suffered an injury or illness that has resulted in the loss of teeth. They construct oral prosthetics to replace missing teeth and use complex oral procedures to correct mouth and jaw deformities to help repair functions such as chewing and speech. Cosmetic dentistry also involves the use of veneers, and techniques such as teeth whitening.

Study pathways for dentists

There are opportunities for employment in dentistry at many levels, from entry-level positions requiring vocational training to specialised study for those pursuing highly skilled roles within dentistry.

Getting Started

These vocational courses will allow you to join the dental profession in an entry-level role, such as dental assistant, requiring supervision from senior staff.

Skill Building

Study for career advancement. Qualify as a dentist or dental hygienist, or pursue a career specialisation.

Professional Development

These study options will enable you to pursue high-level employment options requiring extensive qualification or specialisation in a particular dentistry field.

Industry Recognition

Australian dental professionals must register with Australian Dental Industry Association (ADIA) after successful completion of a relevant tertiary qualification.

Getting a job after graduation

Put your training to good use and fast track your dentistry career. Take a look at our sample resume and cover letter and put your best foot forward when you apply for jobs in dentistry.

Job Prospects and Salaries

Dentistry has always been in high demand, and with our increasing focus on physical appearance, the area of cosmetic dentistry in particular is booming. Employment for general dental practitioners to November 2019 is also expected to grow strongly.