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Dental Workers/ Dental Assistants

Note: Completion of a TAFE SA course does not guarantee an employment outcome. Formal requirements other than educational qualifications (eg licensing, professional registration), may apply to some occupations.

Job Prospects Openings 5 years to November 2019: 10,001 to 25,000
Salary Range Median weekly earnings: < $920 to Source: Australian Government Department of Employment 2015
Brief Next time you bite into an apple think about how you would cope without a healthy set of teeth. Dental hygienists, dental assistants and dental technicians all work closely with dentists in the care and treatment of teeth and gums.

There are currently around 1,600 dental assistants employed in South Australia. Half are employed full-time and most work in the health and community services industry. Most persons in this occupation are female and most are employed in the Adelaide metropolitan area. This occupation has a younger age profile with less than a quarter of dental assistants aged 45 years or older.

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TAFE SA courses that may be relevant for: Dental Workers/ Dental Assistants

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Its about prevention rather than cure - dentistry has been so proactive about tooth and gum care that dental workers are dealing with fewer cavities and tooth decay than a decade ago. It may seem that they are working themselves out of a job! But that's not the case at all. As the population ages and people become more aware of the value of their teeth, dental hygienists, assistants and technicians are in medium to high demand.

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Education Requirements

Of those employed in the industry currently 36% have a Certificate III or IV and 7% have an Advanced Diploma or Diploma. While 29% have no post school qualifications it is recommended that further study be undertaken to remain competitive when apply for work in these careers.

TAFE SA offers courses relevant to this occupation including the Advanced Diploma of Oral Health (Dental Hygiene), Diploma of Dental Technology, Diploma of Practice Management. Pathways include the Certificate III and IV in Dental Assisting, Certificate IV in Dental Assisting (Incorporating electives for Dental Radiography work).

Other courses associated with this career is the Advanced Diploma of Dental Prosthetics.

SA Apprenticeships are available in this occupation for further information go to the Traineeship & Apprenticeship Services Website at or phone the Freecall number 1800 673 097.

Career Path

Most dental assistants are employed by dentists in private practices and clinics. Some dental assistants undertake further study to become dental hygienists. Others gain further administrative experience and possibly qualifications to progress to practice management.

According to the latest figures, all these positions show slight growth for the next few years, as the ageing population increases and education about oral health and disease prevention continues. Job prospects for dental hygienists in both city and rural areas look positive.


Health and Community Services

Nature of the Job

Dental hygienists work with dentists to educate people about oral care and to provide dental treatment, such as polishing and cleaning teeth. They spend time showing their patients how to floss and brush properly. They also assist dentists by taking X-rays and impressions of teeth. Dental (or chair side) assistants greet and prepare clients for examinations. It is their responsibility to prepare and sterilise dental equipment. Not only do they assist dentists, hygienists and technicians in the dental work, they also provide clerical assistance. More people work as assistants than the hygienists and technicians combined. Dental technicians work in laboratories making things like bridges, crowns and dentures. They work closely with dentists and may not have any direct contact with patients unless they have qualified further as a dental prosthetist.

Typical Physical Working Environment

Work in this field requires good manual dexterity and the ability to perform precision work. Equally important is the ability to communicate well and to work as a member of a team. For hygienists, it is essential to have good people skills, especially as you'll be spending a lot of time in close proximity to a client, peering down their mouth! Good organisational skills and the ability to juggle a variety of tasks at once are some of the necessary traits required in the trade. Dental hygienists and assistants work in dental clinics. Their working hours are generally Monday To Friday, from 8.30am to 5pm. Many clinics are open at least one evening per week and on Saturday mornings. Technicians work in a lab usually from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

Typical Occupational Example

Most dental workers are employed in the medical and dental services industry, while the rest are spread throughout other health, education and community services.

For further information, contact:

Australian Dental Association (SA)
Phone: (08) 8272 8111

Dental Hygienists' Association of Australia Inc - SA Branch
Phone: 0409 011 516

Dental Assistants Professional Association
Phone: (02) 9569 3220

Earning Potential

Salaries vary depending on the level of experience. Dental assistants start out at around $25,000 per year and can climb to $32,000. Graduate hygienists and technicians earn more, with salaries starting at about $28,000 and reaching as high as $45,000.

Further Information

For further information about all TAFE SA Courses, phone 1800 882 661 or enquire online