How Do I Become a Dental Therapist?

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  • Written By: Angela Crout-Mitchell
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 23 August 2019
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There are several important steps that must be followed in order to become a dental therapist, including acquiring the correct educational background, applying to a dental program, and successfully completing the coursework. Dental therapist candidates also have to apply for their practicing license from the jurisdiction they plan to work in. The dental therapy field is comparative to that of a nurse practitioner in the medical field. Dental therapists are allowed to work under a licensed dentist and can extract teeth, perform cleaning, and teach patients about dental hygiene care. In many areas, these professionals are helping to make up for the lack of dental professionals and helping to provide dental care for outlying areas.

The first step to become a dental therapist is to complete no less than a high school diploma or general education equivalent (GED). Dental therapy courses are only offered from accredited colleges and universities, and eligible candidates must have an adequate educational background before being admitted. Each school has different requirements, and some expect students to submit entrance exam scores before admission. Traditional students can ask for assistance from their school's guidance counselor in meeting the requirements, and others can obtain the necessary paperwork from their school's alumni office.


In order to become a dental therapist, interested students must find and apply to a dental therapy program. This field of dentistry is relatively new, so there are limited colleges and universities that offer this particular field of study and you may have to relocate to continue your education. During your college academic career, you can expect the coursework to focus primarily on human anatomy and physiology, especially of the face and mouth, teeth and mouth pathologies, the effects of mouth pathologies on the rest of the body, and communication skills. Dental therapy students also study dental procedures in the classroom as well as in labs and clinical studies.

Assuming the candidate has successfully completed dental therapy training and education, the next step to become a dental therapist is to apply for a license from the jurisdiction you wish to practice in. Depending on your location, you could be expected to sit for a state, regional, or national exam, and some areas require more than one exam. Upon passing the test, the licensing agency typically performs a background check and collects fees for the license and exam. The time of your exam until the license is issued can range from a few weeks to a few months. Most jurisdictions require license renewal every two years and for the therapist to take continuing education courses.



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