Case study

Dental therapist — Claire Bennett

Claire is a self-employed dental therapist working for a small rural dental practice. Find out more about the work she does, what she enjoys most and the challenges

What degree did you study?

I studied for a BSc Dental Therapy and Dental Hygiene at Cardiff University and graduated in 2020.

How did you get your job?

I applied via a job advert on Indeed. Having submitted my CV, I went through a couple of rounds of interviews before being offered the position at Feniton Dental Practice.

What's a typical working day like?

It depends on what types of treatments reception have scheduled in my diary. I usually arrive 30 minutes before my first patient to run through the patient list. I work to my full scope of practice as a dental therapist. I provide screening, maintenance and prevention treatments, including oral health advice, fluoride application and professional mechanical plaque removal, as well as the treatment and management of periodontal or peri-implantitis diseases. My work also includes extractions and restorations for children and restorations for adults.

Some days are based outside of the dental practice. I visit local schools to talk about teeth or about the role of a dental therapist. I also took a voluntary role with the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT) as student representative coordinator. In this role I support students to ensure they are being represented within our profession from undergraduate level.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I really enjoy working as part of a proactive dental team. The communication and professionalism of a good team ensures that everything runs smoothly, enabling you to provide excellent service to the community.

I also like the variety of the role. Every patient that walks through the door has different needs or planned treatment. It is not just the variety of hands-on skills, but also getting to know the patients. One minute you can be chatting to a very young child, then to a teenager or someone who has retired.

What are the challenges?

Communication, time constraints and regulations must be the biggest challenges in dentistry. Most dental disease is preventable, and dentistry is slowly starting to emphasise the importance of improved communication and understanding the role patients play in preventing oral disease through diet and an effective home care routine. Patient compliance is essential to a successful treatment outcome.

In what way is your degree relevant?

You must obtain a recognised qualification to register with the General Dental Council (GDC) to work as a dental therapist. The qualification provides academic and hands-on experience to ensure the public is safe.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

When I first graduated, I was working solely as a dental hygienist. I am now at a dental practice where I am working to my full scope of practice. The role of the dental therapist is not yet widely understood by the public or by the dental profession in some cases. I hope to continue to utilise my full scope of practice in the coming years.

What advice can you give to others wanting to get into this job?

  • You should look for work experience opportunities within the dental profession to ensure that the role matches your expectations before applying for university.
  • It is never too late to start a career in dentistry. Don't forget that the Access to Higher Education course is an accepted starting point into university degrees of this nature.
  • There is great opportunity for flexible working that would often suit family life.

Find out more

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