An up-to-date focus on the scope of practice of one group of dental care professionals (DCPs), as described by the General Dental Council (GDC).
‘Scope of practice’ means what you are trained and competent to do. It describes the areas in which you have the knowledge, skills and experience to practise safely and effectively in the best interests of patients. The GDC’s full document on the scope of practice of all dental registrants, published in 2013 and updated in 2017, can be found at https://www.gdc-uk.org/professionals/registers/reg-types.
Dental therapists are registered dental professionals who carry out certain items of dental treatment direct to patients or under prescription from a dentist and can undertake the following if you are trained, competent and indemnified:
Obtain a detailed dental history from patients and evaluate their medical history
Carry out a clinical examination within their competence
Complete periodontal examination and charting and use indices to screen and monitor periodontal disease
Diagnose and treatment plan within their competence
Take, process and interpret various film views used in general dental practice
Plan the delivery of care for patients
Give appropriate patient advice
Provide preventive oral care to patients and liaise with dentists over the treatment of caries, periodontal disease and tooth wear
Undertake supragingival and subgingival scaling and root surface debridement using manual and powered instruments
Use appropriate anti-microbial therapy to manage plaque related diseases
Adjust restored surfaces in relation to periodontal treatment
Apply topical treatments and fissure sealants
Give patients advice on how to stop smoking
Take intra and extra-oral photographs
Give infiltration and inferior dental block analgesia
Place temporary dressings and re-cement crowns with temporary cement
Place rubber dam
Care of implants and treatment of peri-implant tissues
Carry out direct restorations on primary and secondary teeth
Carry out pulpotomies on primary teeth
Extract primary teeth
Place pre-formed crowns on primary teeth
Identify anatomical features, recognise abnormalities and interpret common pathology
Carry out oral cancer screening
If necessary, refer patients to other healthcare professionals
Keep full, accurate and contemporaneous patient records
If working on prescription, vary the detail but not the direction of the prescription according to patient needs; for example, the number of surfaces to be restored or the material to be used.
Additional skills that dental therapists could develop include:
Carrying out tooth whitening to the prescription of a dentist
Administering inhalation sedation
Removing sutures after the wound has been checked by a dentist.
All other skills are reserved to orthodontic therapists, dental technicians, clinical dental technicians or dentists.
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Scope of practice: dental therapists. BDJ Team 5, 18089 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/bdjteam.2018.89