Log in

Log in


The association was established to provide an avenue for Dental Therapists from various states and territories of Australia to compare their similarities and differences in duties and employment opportunities and to offer advice and support to each other.The origin of Dental Therapy has been variously attributed to both Great Britain and New Zealand in the early years of the 20th Century. Within Australia Dental Therapy schools were established in Tasmania and South Australia in 1966 and 1967 respectively.

By Professor Julie Satur

The Development of the Profession

Dental therapists operate in a primary care role, carrying out low to medium technology oral health care and health promotion, referring patients to dentists (or other health care providers) for services which are beyond their skills. Their skills include examination, diagnosis and treatment planning, radiology, preparation of cavities and their restoration with amalgam, cements and plastic filling materials, pulp therapies and extractions of deciduous teeth, clinical preventive services such as prophylaxis and scaling, fissure sealants and fluoride therapies, diet counselling and oral health education and promotion. Up until July 2000, dental therapists in most states of Australia were limited to public sector employment with School Dental Services providing care to children and adolescents under the ‘general supervision of a dentist1’ and with the assistance of a dental nurse....

Read more
The Development of Dental Therapy

In 1913, the then President of the New Zealand Dental Association, Dr Norman K Cox proposed a system of school clinics operated by the state and staffed by ‘oral hygienists’ to address the dental needs of children between the ages of 6 and 14 years. At the time the idea was considered too unorthodox but in 1920, at a special meeting of the New Zealand Dental Association, 16 members voted for the adoption of school dental nurses with 7 opposed to the proposal....

Read more
The Development of Dental Therapy in Australia

As early as 1919, a Melbourne dentist advocated a state dental service which would primarily have educational and other preventive functions. He drew on the concept of the British system of ‘dental dressers’ for a new Victorian ‘oral hygienist’ who would provide much of the care under the supervision of a dentist (Robertson 1989). In 1923, in order to make recommendations to the Victorian Cabinet for the extension of dental treatment for children, the Acting Director of Education for the State of Victoria wrote to the Principal Dental Officer for New Zealand’s School Dental Service expressing interest in the scheme to train young women as dental assistants for work in schools. Clearly, concern for child oral health was significant, but the threat of the development of another layer of practitioner, when the university educated dentists were ‘…fending off the demands (for registration and practice) by recorded men, twilighters and (dental) mechanics…’ was too great for the establishing Victorian dentist profession (Robertson 1989)....

Read more
Dental Therapists Practicing in Australia Today

The National Registration and Accreditation Scheme requires that information about every registered health practitioner in Australia is published on a single national register of practitioners. For the first time, it is possible to produce accurate reports on the number of practitioners registered in each profession in Australia...

Read more


Commonwealth Department of Health (1979) World Dental Therapy Schools, Canberra ACT.
Dooland M(1992) Improving Dental Health In Australia , Background Paper No.9, National Health Strategy, Department of Health Housing and Community Services, AGPS Canberra
Dunning JM(1972) Deployment and control of dental auxiliaries in New Zealand and Australia, Journal of the American Dental Association, Vol 85 September 1972:618-26
(FDI) Federation Dentaire Internationale (2001) Dental Workforce Data 2000: Source FDI website,, accessed 24 Aug 2001
Gardner H and Barraclough S (1992), The Policy Process, in Health Policy: Development, Implementation and Evaluation , Churchill Livingstone, Melbourne
Gussy M (2001) Background to the Accreditation of Training and Education of Allied Oral Health Professionals, Paper prepared for the Australian Dental Council, April 2001, (unpublished) University of Melbourne
Hannah A (1998) New Zealand Dentists, Dental Therapists and Dental Hygienists: Workforce Analysis, A resource paper produced for and published by the Dental Council of New Zealand, (DCNZ) Hannah and Associates
Houwink B, Van Amerongen WE, Sollewijn GJ, Van Den Inge-Hollanders NAM, Van Oers LJM (1977) Use of School Dental Therapists in the Netherlands, Nederlands Tijdschrift Voor Tandheelkund , 1977, 85: 26-34
Larkin G (1980), Professionalism, Dentistry and Public Health,  Social Science and Medicine, Vol 14A:223-229
Leslie GH, (1971), More about dental auxiliaries, Australian Dental Journal,  August 1971, Vol16; No4:201-9 
(NHMRC) National Health and Medical Research Council, (1965) Dental Auxiliary Personnel; Reprinted from the Report of the 60th  Session of the National Health and Medical Research Council, October 1965 , CGP, Canberra
Nuffield Foundation (1993), Education and Training of Personnel Auxiliary to Dentistry,  (Tyrrell D, Chair), the Nuffield Foundation, London, United Kingdom
Roberston J,(1989)  Dentistry For The Masses? Masters Thesis, University of Melbourne , 1989
Tane H (2002) Bachelor of Health Science (Dental Therapy) at the University of Otago, Paper presented at The Oral Health Therapy Educators Meeting: University of  Melbourne, July 2002
Satur J (2003) Australian Dental Policy Reform And The Use Of Dental Therapists And Hygienists, PhD Thesis, Deakin University, Australia 
Szuster FSP and Spencer AJ.(1997a), Dental Therapist Labourforce Aus



email or phone 0433 022 859

Privacy Policy           

© 2024 ADOHTA Ltd

We respectfully acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we operate, and pay our respects to their Elders past, present, and emerging. We also welcome and celebrate the diversity of all peoples and communities, including our friends in the LGBTQ+ community.