Dental Therapist

Dental therapists offer basic dental services and preventative dentistry. Dental therapy as an occupation was introduced in the nineteen seventies to cater for the growing number of people who rely on the public health service for their dental care.

Dental therapists carry out dental examinations; identifying and diagnosing serious conditions and referring these to dentists and orthodontists. Where necessary they do simple fillings and extractions and will carry out preventative measures against the more common oral diseases.

Dental therapists clean, scale, floss and polish patients’ teeth, while educating them about oral health and hygiene. They will take X-rays and should more intricate dental work or complicated bridgework be required, they will refer patients to qualified practitioners.

Dental therapists work mainly in clinics and may also visit schools which could require frequent travelling. They can work independently or in a team with oral hygienists and dentists and refer complicated procedures for further management to dentists. However, they may not practise independently unless they have practised for at least one year under the control and supervision of a dentist or another senior dental therapist.

Personal Requirements

  • interest in and an aptitude for science
  • good judgement and diagnostic skills
  • able to inspire confidence and trust
  • manual dexterity
  • able to perform precise and detailed work
  • three-dimensional abilities
  • good eyesight and visual memory

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Science 
Recommended subjects: Life Sciences

  • Pass matric with a Bachelor's pass
  • Meet the admission requirements (APS) set by the university
  • All applications for admission to MBChB and Medical degrees are subject to selection.
  • Due to the limited number of spaces available, only a small percentage of applicants are admitted.

What to Study

Degree: BDental Therapy (BDent Ther) - UL, Wits

Dental therapists have to register with the Health Professions Council of South Africa in order to practise and must work under the supervision of dentists or senior dental therapists for at least one year before practising.


  • public hospitals and clinics
  • private dental clinics
  • self-employment, with enough experience and capital, can set up own practice

Further Information

South African Dental Association (SADA)
31 Princess of Wales Terrace
Johannesburg, Gauteng, 2193
South Africa
Tel: (011) 484-5288
Toll Free: 080 011 0725

Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) 
(553) of Hamilton and
Madiba Streets,
Arcadia, Pretoria
Tel: (012) 338-9300

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation work in a dental clinic
  • make an appointment to speak to a dental therapist about this type of career and ask permission to observe them at work

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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