Finding the right career for you

Choosing the right career path is a decision not to be taken lightly. With oral health services available in general and speciality dental practices there are a lot of options to choose from.

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Check out some of your options

A higher percentage of dental hygienists and oral health therapists in Australia work in general practices; a smaller number work in specialist practices, for example, in periodontic, orthodontic and prosthodontic practices.

There are other diverse areas of dentistry that dental hygienists and oral health therapists are involved with, such as:

[accordion-item title=”Research”] Working in teaching institutions with specialists conducting clinical studies and trials. For example, the Special Needs Clinic at the Dental Hospital in South Australia, or the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) – data collection for statistical information.

“Working with research does not necessarily mean leaving patient contact and clinical involvement.

“My experience with working with research has been exciting and rewarding, providing another dimension to my daily clinical tasks. I’m hoping my research will contribute positively to the growth of our profession. Whether you are new graduate or an experienced professional, explore your opportunities! Research provides so many exciting prospects which allows you to develop both personally and professionally”
Meloshini Naicker, DHAA Member.

[accordion-item title=”Professional Education”] Presenting research at seminars, congresses, and meetings, and training of dentists, oral health therapists, dental hygiene students and dental assistants. With most careers in education, it is likely you get involved in research and work in clinical teaching.

“I’d describe my first love as seeing calculus, my eyes light up as soon as I reach for the ultrasonic and I can feel my heart skip a beat as soon as I see a chunk chip off. Two years later, I discovered by second love – answering how something you see in the mouth works.

“I met the PhD Scholarship of my dreams (NHMRC) at the University of Queensland. I’m lucky enough to blend teaching, research and clinical practice all into one.

“On Monday’s I’m in the lab looking into the interaction between bacteria and Titanium, on Wednesday’s I’m clinic directly applying what I learnt in the lab. There’s never a dull day and I can’t wait for the week to begin!”
Carol Tran, DHAA Member

[accordion-item title=”Community Health”]

Community dental clinics, group talks and assistance, for example: HIV sufferers, ante-natal, dietary disorders such as bulimia and anorexia, persons with diabetes, mental health and physically compromised individuals, alzheimer sufferers and their carers. Other areas include long term residential care, hospitals and nursing homes.

“Engagement with the community at a primary health level has been one of the best moves I made in my dental career… Working off site, establishing a dental clinic for homeless and marginalised individuals, providing pro bono dental services in their territory has opened up an area we must continue to explore.”


“Dentistry as a whole is changing and a mind shift about “the clinic and four walls” has changed. You can make a real difference by stepping into the community whether it be a Community Centre, Supported Care Facility or in someone’s home. The challenges are many and require careful consideration, collaboration with a whole range of people – social workers, nurses, doctors, industry support and peers- but the rewards outweigh the negatives – addressing dental pain and restoring confidence to someone who has had so many things go wrong in their lives- illness, loss of work, loss of family, loss of self respect – still leaves me in awe about something we take so much for granted. There are many unpaid hours of working through how we can provide some services, but something always comes to the fore- a successful grant, generous donations of money, goods in kind or services from volunteers and students. I believe we have an obligation to use our education and skills to improve the quality of life for people who have often forgotten how to care for themselves.”

Margie Steffens ADDH, B.Sc.Dent (Hons),DHAA Member, Lecturer, Director Community Outreach, School of Dentistry, University of Adelaide

[accordion-item title=”Australian Defence Force”]

One of the main focuses in working with serving Defence members is to ensure that they are dentally fit to deploy overseas. This involves not only their current dental health but the tools to maintain their dental health while living in less than ideal environments

“Working for Defence has enabled me to work much more autonomously”

“After working in the private sector for almost 20 years it has been a pleasant change to switch over to the public sector.  I enjoy the freedom of being able to schedule as many appointments as needed with my patients as they are not billed for treatment! It is refreshing to not have to discuss the cost of treatment. The demographic is more defined but no less challenging. I love this role.”

Mandy Walker, DHAA Member, Edinburgh Health Centre

[accordion-item title=”Marketing and Sales”] Working in the field of dental products promotion via dental companies, or becoming a dental company representative can be a challenging role. You need to be highly self-motivated and extremely organised keep up with your work. As a representative of a brand or company you are a part of a fantastic team.

“Every day I meet fantastic health professionals and auxiliary staff that make a positive difference to patients lives. I remain in the field I love, and represent products that can improve the oral and systemic health of individuals. I constantly read research about current dental topics and deliver this information to my peers in the dental field. In saying this I guarantee every day someone teaches me something new, I never claim to know it all!

“I have developed and continue to develop skills in the areas of business, sales and marketing. This is something I became interested in when I assisted to manage a Dental Hygiene Department within a private practice.

“The role is completely what you make it, and I go for every opportunity to make a difference I can. I have involved myself with O-Week events, Charities and Conferences and am always on the lookout for ways I can partner with health professionals to improve the oral health of the Australian population.”
Siobhan Kenny, Oral Health Care Consultant (BOHSc La Trobe)

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