Who is a Dental Therapist?

A Dental Therapist is a professionally trained healthcare personnel to provide oral health educational and therapeutic dental treatment and services in a healthcare practice setting and at the three tiers of the Healthcare Delivery System in Nigeria, namely Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Tiers. As members of a multidisciplinary team, dental therapists provide preventive treatment services, disease prevention, and oral health promotion programs to maintain and improve health.

History of a Dental Therapy Profession in Nigeria.

The dental therapy profession has been in practice in other countries for a long time before it came down to Nigeria. The dental therapy school was first established in the year 1958 by Miss Vera Mary Creaton, A Briton at No. 1 Broad Street, Lagos state Nigeria for the training of Dental Hygienists which was later changed to Dental therapists, and the school was relocated to Enugu state Nigeria and the name was changed to the Federal College of Dental Technology & Therapy, trans Ekulu, Enugu-Nigeria.

In the year 1961, the school was accredited which is renewable every 10 years by a team from Britain led by Sir Williams Kesley Fry.

 Certificates obtained as a Dental Therapist in Nigeria.

To study dental therapy in any of the schools offering it as a course in Nigeria, you have to spend approximately 4-5 years in the school.  With a series of training and clinical practice experiences. The courses are thought of by professors in the field who have undergone educational training. The Certificates obtained are;

Bachelor of Science (BSc). And

Higher National Diploma (HND) in Dental therapy.

Roles of a Dental Therapist

A dental therapist is a member of the dental team, who performs their professionally trained duties for the improvement of a patient’s oral health.  They work as a team with other dental teams under the supervision of a licensed dentist when the need arises. A dentist is the head of the dental team.  Below are the duties of a dental therapist;

  • Record and monitor disease.
  • Professional washing of the teeth; also known as Scaling and Polishing.
  • They offer Periodontal treatment and the treatment of gum disease to the patient
  • They render Intra and extraoral dental assessment
  • Carryout Pulp therapy treatment of deciduous teeth
  • They offer placement of preformed crowns on deciduous teeth
  • Administration of Inferior Dental Nerve Block analgesia and Infiltration analgesia (dental Injections) under the supervision of a licensed dentist.
  • Application of preventive dental materials to teeth such as fluoride and fissure sealants
  • Taking Dental Radiographs (X-rays)
  • They Provide dental health education to groups or individuals.
  • Carry out dental restorative fillings in both deciduous and permanent teeth, on adults and children, from Class 1-V cavity preparations.
  • Carryout Extraction of deciduous teeth under local analgesia

Qualities of a Dental Therapist

There are some qualities expected of a Dental Therapist to carry out his/her duties effectively and to give their patient the best treatment.  below are the basic qualities they should possess.

  • Team Work

The dental therapist can work cooperatively within a team environment for effective treatment and referral purposes.

  •  Empathy

Dental therapists have empathy for the pain, and concerns of their patients.  They provide comfort through compassion showing empathy is one of the best methods for effective patient care.

  • Documentation

The dental therapist has the proper documentation skills,  documentation of the patient’s medical history, and data statics.  Wrong documentation of patient dental and medical history, signs, and symptoms, or medications can result in severe consequences. 

  • Communication

The dental therapist has great oral and written communication skills.  To be a good dental therapist, you require effective conversation skills because we deal with patients from diverse backgrounds and age groups.

  • Strong Confidence

Dental therapist has strong confidence which helps them build respect and trust with patients and colleagues. Even in uncertainty, it’s important for you as a dental therapist to have the confidence to seek out the right advice to provide patients with the best information and treatment as no man is an island.

  • Ability to solve problems

A great dental therapist is always prepared with solutions to comfort patients or communicate successfully with dentists or other staff.

  •   Humor

The dental therapy profession is a career that has its own challenges, but as a great dental therapist, you should be able to find humor even in the most difficult situations to overcome stress and provide the best quality of care. Maintain a good balance of fun and work for a successful and long-lasting career as a dental therapist.