Dentistry is a wide field having a range of career options. The basic job description of a dentist is examining teeth and mouth tissue and diagnosing and treating related problems and ailments. Another offshoot of dentistry is being a dental technician whose primary job responsibilities include repairing and constructing dentures, partial dentures, crowns, bridges and orthodontic appliances as well as maxillofacial surgical devices. Both the areas – dentist and dental technician are closely related and heavily dependent on one another. Hence, it is necessary to see the careers of each in isolation and in some detail.
In today’s age of specialisation, dentists too should opt for specific areas if they are to be successful. Some of the alternatives that can be explored are –
- Orthodontists who use braces and retainers to straighten out teeth.
- Paediatric dentists that take care of oral and gum care and any teeth related problems of children
- Prosthodontists who are mainly concerned with replacing missing teeth and repairing dentures and bridges. Support from a dental technician is very necessary in these cases.
- Oral and maxillofacial surgeon conducts surgery to correct mouth and tissue problems
- Oral pathologists help in – diagnosing oral diseases and conditions.
Once the course is completed a dentist can choose from a number of openings. The first of course is to join as an assistant in a well established dental clinic and learn the many intricacies of dental care. Later, the dentist can branch out and establish own practice once required confidence levels to work individually have been achieved. Other than this, other openings for dentists are
- Hospital dentistry – A dentist has to work in close coordination with other physicians, surgeons and those who have completed nursing courses to provide comprehensive health care to patients in hospitals. Perfect for dentists with a great interest in medicine.
- Academic dentistry – In this academic branch of dentistry, the job profile of a dentist includes teaching, research, patient care and community service. It is an intellectually stimulating environment for those who are more academically inclined than hands-on dental care.
- Public Health Dentistry – This career aims at community environments instead of individual settings. The profession goals comprise of promoting dental health and formulating good dental health policies which includes preventive dental health care rather than treatments.
Dental Technicians –
A dental technician plays a supporting role to a dentist and is chiefly responsible for repairing and constructing dentures and partial dentures, crowns and bridges and other orthodontic appliances. After completing the required courses, a dental technician can work under supervision in a public or private laboratory or exclusively as a doctor’s assistant. He can also open a laboratory of his own after gaining sufficient experience in the field.
Practical training is very crucial in this profession as even the slightest mistake can be damaging for a patient’s overall dental care. Hence most programmes have extensive hands-on laboratory training. For example, in the case of Australian Centre of Further Education which is one of the industry leaders in dental technician courses, the programme is over 96 week duration, a major part of which is training in their high tech laboratories.
Dental technicians can work in the following specialised areas –
- Prosthodontics – Dental technicians design and construct complete and partial dentures usually made of polymeric materials have the colour of gums and hence easily blend in with gum tissue.
- Conservation – This is constructing crowns and bridges usually made of metals and ceramic materials. It gives a natural look and is not noticeable.
- Orthodontics – A dental technician specialising in orthodontics constructs appliances known as “braces”. These help to adjust the position of the teeth in the mouth. It usually consists of a wire frame over the teeth which when tightened helps to move the teeth to the required place in the mouth. This apart from the aesthetics factor improves jaw function.
- Maxillofacial – It is a very complex area of dentistry and brings out the best in a dental technician. It offers support to a dentist in reconstructing the inner mouth in case of burns or accidents. Such people are generally posted in trauma and emergency units in hospitals.
The pay scale of both dentists and dental technicians depend on their qualification and experience in this field. Earnings of a private practitioner are related to the goodwill and reputation they have in this profession.