The history of the training and utilisation of dental auxiliaries dates back to the early 20th century when in 1913 the then President of the New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA), Dr Norman K Cox acknowledged the need for a series of school dental clinics operated by what he termed 'oral hygienists' to address the extraordinarily high dental caries rates amongst children (Satur 2003). A comprehensive account of this history; The Development of the Dental Therapy Profession, by Julie Satur, can be found on the National ADOHTA homepage.
After observing the success of the New Zealand dental therapy program and its School Dental Service, the role of the dental therapist was quickly adopted by various countries around the world to provide primary and varying degrees of restorative dental care to a range of populations. In South Australia, careers for a small group of new dental therapist graduates began in 1969. They participated in a full time two year intensive training program and employed by the South Australian Department of Health in school dental clinics scattered throughout the state. Their primary role was to provide a range of oral health care services to primary school age children.The practice of dental therapy has evolved over time and dental therapists in South Australia are celebrating over 40 years of serving South Australian school children and young adults from the ages of 0 – 17 years. The profession now provides a range of opportunities for those involved and education in this field is provided by the University of Adelaide, Bachelor of Oral Health. Participants now graduate with a dual qualification of both dental therapy and dental hygiene and practice as an Oral Health Therapist in both the public and private oral health care sectors.