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How to Become a Dentist

Working out if dentistry is the right degree for you

Dentistry is described by the Australian Dental Association as the art and science of prevention, diagnosis and treatment of conditions, diseases and disorders of the oral cavity and its associated structures.

Dentists perform a variety of roles that are committed to improving the quality of life for their patients by preventing and treating oral ailments and disorders.

The type of services that a dentist provides, according to the Australian Dental Association include:

  • giving comprehensive oral health assessments such as dental charting, providing a health history, periodontal disease screening, oral cancer screening, decay screening, jaw analysis, saliva testing, tooth staining, colour analysis, and taking blood pressure, respiration and blood glucose.
  • prescribing, undertaking, processing and interpreting x-rays
  • performing dental examinations to determine a patient's diagnosis followed by a treatment plan.
  • educating patients how to practice oral hygiene such as explaining plaque control, smoking cessation, systemic health and good nutrition.
  • referring patients to specialists dentists for more in-depth examination or treatment
  • make impressions of teeth for study models and oral appliance fabrication
  • perform clinical treatment upon a patient to restore, repair, remove, replace, realign, remedy and retain teeth, form and function
  • keep concise, complete and accurate patient dental records on paper or computer.
  • provide supervision over allied dental health professionals working in the dental practice.
  • stay up-to-date with new developments in dentistry through continuous professional development (CPD)
  • market dental services and educational messages to the public.

How to Become a Dentist

The most common path to follow to become a qualified dentist is to gain the required University Admissions Index mark (UAI) to gain entry into a degree in dentistry such as a Bachelor of Dental Surgery (B.D.S), Bachelor of Dental Science (B.D. Sc), Bachelor of Dentistry (B.Dent) or Bachelor of Oral Health in Dental Science (B.O.H.D.Sc). There are no differences between the training provided by each of these courses.

Dentistry programs are very competitive and often have a high cut-off and you must also perform well in the Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admission Test (UMAT) alongside a host of prerequisite subjects and usually an interview.

In Australia there are only seven institutions that provide dentistry courses to train professional dentists, which some people believe is too little considering the skills shortage in the dentistry industry. Most of the shortages in the dental workforce occur in the public system, however according to the Australian Good Universities Guide only one third of dentistry graduates begin in the public sector while two thirds begin in the private industry.

Registration to practice a dentistry job in Australia requires proof that you have successfully completed an accredited university dental degree and evidence from the Dental Board of the state or territory that you intend to reside and practise in. Once this has been granted it must be renewed annually. This may mean that you will have to participate in continuing professional development (CPD).

Australian Universities Offering Dentist Degrees

University of Western Australia - Bachelor of Dentistry

University of Melbourne - Bachelor of Dental Science and Bachelor of Dental Health

University of Queensland - Bachelor of Dentistry

University of Sydney - Bachelor of Dentistry

University of Adelaide - Bachelor of Dental Surgery and Bachelor of Oral Health

La Trobe University - Bachelor of Health Sciences in Dentistry

Charles Sturt University - Bachelor of Dental Science

What Dentistry Work Requires

Dentistry is a clinically-focused career and requires much practical work. Dentists need to be strong in science and maths. If you want to become a dentist you can work in a range of places; a private practice, a government service and also in the defence force.

Job Satisfaction

Graduates often report low satisfaction levels in the university course experience questionnaire. However their career prospects are high with top starting salaries (the highest of any other industry) that vary from state to state.