Scope of Practice and Competency
Dental care services may require a team of dental professionals to carry out the necessary treatments. There are several divisions for registered dental practitioners in different types of healthcare settings with diverse scopes of practice based on their training, education and competence. These divisions in the dental industry vary greatly between countries.
Dentists are independent practitioners with a range of responsibilities associated with assessment, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and management of dental lesions, deformities, traumas and diseases of human teeth and associated structures. Care is provided to patients of all ages. Dentists can practise all aspects of dentistry that is within their education, training and competency and can further pursue a specialist training to become dental specialists in various fields of dentistry. Examples of these specialties include:
- oral and maxillofacial surgery
- oral pathology
- oral surgery
- paediatric dentistry
- special needs dentistry.
Oral Health Therapists
This dual‐qualified programme provides graduates with sufficient knowledge of all aspects of dental hygiene and dental therapy. In a general dental setting, the scope is to provide assessment, diagnosis and treatment for children and adolescents, working closely with dentists. Depending on the national board approved programme, the treatment can be carried out for patients of all ages. The scope is regulated to preventative services, restorative work and fillings, extraction of deciduous teeth, treatment of periodontal diseases, oral health education and promotion. Oral health therapists work closely with specialists in an orthodontic setting to carry out the treatment plan designed by the orthodontist. Based on the training and education provided in the programme, the level of competency greatly varies.
Assessment, diagnosis, treatment and management of mild to moderate periodontal diseases are the primary roles of dental hygienists. Treating severe periodontal cases with a surgical approach is beyond the scope of dental hygienists. In these instances, dental hygienists work closely with periodontists to manage the condition. The main role is oral health education and prevention of oral diseases in patients of all ages, by promoting better oral health and hygiene. In a general dental setting, dental hygienists only work within a structured professional relationship with dentists. In the orthodontic setting, dental hygienists work under the guidance and supervision of an orthodontist.
The primary role of the dental therapist is assessment, diagnosis and management of dental caries. This is achieved by providing preventative care services, pulpotomies and extraction of deciduous teeth, restorative procedures for children and adolescents. Depending on the national board approved programmes, the age limits vary and some scopes allow treatment for patients of all ages. One of the key roles of dental therapists is enhancing better oral health with oral health promotion and education for patients of all ages. Dental therapists are only permitted to work within a structured professional relationship established with dentists.