Dental practitioner

A dental practitioner


A dental practitioner, commonly known as a dentist, is a highly trained healthcare professional who specializes in oral health and provides a wide range of dental services to patients of all ages. Dental practitioners play a crucial role in maintaining and improving oral health, preventing dental diseases, and addressing various dental issues to ensure their patients have healthy and functional smiles.

Dental practitioners typically do the following tasks:

  • Perform dental examinations to assess the overall oral health of patients and identify any dental conditions or concerns.
  • Diagnose and treat dental issues, such as tooth decay, gum disease, and oral infections, using various dental procedures and techniques.
  • Provide preventive dental care, including dental cleanings, fluoride treatments, and dental sealants, to help patients maintain good oral hygiene and prevent dental problems.
  • Perform restorative procedures, such as dental fillings, crowns, and bridges, to repair damaged or missing teeth and restore their function and appearance.
  • Conduct root canal therapy to treat infected or damaged tooth pulp and save a severely decayed tooth.
  • Perform tooth extractions when necessary, such as in cases of impacted wisdom teeth or severely damaged teeth that cannot be saved.
  • Collaborate with dental specialists, such as orthodontists, periodontists, and oral surgeons, to provide comprehensive dental care for patients with complex dental needs.
  • Design and fit dental appliances, including dentures, dental implants, and orthodontic braces, to address specific dental issues and improve patients’ oral health and appearance.
  • Administer local anesthesia and sedation to ensure patient comfort during dental procedures.
  • Educate patients on proper oral hygiene practices, including brushing, flossing, and dietary recommendations, to maintain good oral health at home.
  • Communicate treatment plans and dental care options to patients, taking their preferences and concerns into account.
  • Evaluate dental X-rays and other diagnostic tests to aid in the diagnosis and treatment planning process.
  • Monitor patients’ progress and oral health over time, scheduling regular check-ups and follow-up appointments as needed.
  • Address dental emergencies promptly and provide immediate care for patients experiencing dental pain or trauma.
  • Stay informed about the latest advancements in dentistry and continually update skills and knowledge through continuing education.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to dental practitioner:

principal dentist
associate dental practitioner
paediatric dentist
community dentist
geriatric dentist
community dental practitioner
associate dentist
principal dental practitioner
conservative dentist

Working conditions

Dental practitioners work in clean and well-equipped dental offices, where they interact with patients, dental hygienists, dental assistants, and other healthcare professionals. The work environment is typically comfortable and may involve wearing personal protective equipment to ensure a safe and sterile environment. Dental practitioners may work regular business hours, with some flexibility to accommodate patients’ schedules, including evenings and weekends.

Minimum qualifications

To become a dental practitioner, individuals must complete a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) or Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree from an accredited dental school. Dental school typically involves four years of rigorous academic and clinical training. After completing dental school, aspiring dentists must pass the National Board Dental Examination and obtain a state dental license to practice. Some dental practitioners choose to pursue postgraduate education and specialized training in areas such as orthodontics, periodontics, or prosthodontics.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Dental practitioner is a Skill level 4 occupation.

Dental practitioner career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to dental practitioner.

specialist dentist
specialist biomedical scientist
specialist pharmacist

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of dental practitioner.

  • Medico-biological and medical sciences related to dentistry: The behavioral component and the social environment which impact the health of humans, in respect to dentistry.
  • Cosmetic dental procedures: The dental restoration procedures and treatments that enhance the appearance of patients` teeth such as bleaching, enamel recontouring and adhesive dentistry, porcelain veneers, inlays, onlays and dental crowns.
  • Surgery: The essential procedures in surgical practice such as the principle of safe surgery, the pathophysiology of wound healing, knot tying, tissue handling, retraction and any other instruments and procedures used in the operating room.
  • Dentistry science: The sciences on which dentistry is based and an understanding of scientific methods, such as the principles of measuring biological functions, the evaluation of scientifically established facts and the analysis of data.
  • Clinical disciplines in dentistry: The clinical disciplines and methods, providing the coherent picture of anomalies, lesions and diseases of the teeth, mouth, jaws and associated tissues and of preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic dentistry.
  • Mouth anatomy: The structure and function of the teeth, mouth, jaws and associated tissues, both healthy and diseased, and their relationship to the general state of health and to the physical and social well-being of the patient.
  • Anaesthetics: Anaesthetics is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of dental practitioner.

  • Perform oral health diagnosis: Inquire about the state of oral hygiene, perform an examination, do imaging investigations and interpret the findings to set a diagnosis.
  • Respond to changing situations in health care: Cope with pressure and respond appropriately and in time to unexpected and rapidly changing situations in healthcare.
  • Rehabilitate worn dentition: Manage tooth caries, defects and aesthetic problems, using techniques that conserve tooth structure and preserve pulp vitality to restore form and function.
  • Lead the dental team: Act as the leader of the dental team by providing clear instructions to the staff, depending on the dental procedures undertaken.
  • Differentiate between maxillofacial tissues: Distinguish abnormally hard and soft tissues of the maxillofacial complex from normal tissues.
  • Provide periodontal treatment: Manage gum conditions and diseases, providing periodontal treatment as needed and monitoring treatment outcomes.
  • Educate on the prevention of illness: Offer evidence-based advice on how to avoid ill health, educate and advise individuals and their carers on how to prevent ill health and/or be able to advise how to improve their environment and health conditions. Provide advice on the identification of risks leading to ill health and help to increase the patients’ resilience by targeting prevention and early intervention strategies.
  • Perform multiple tasks at the same time: Execute multiple tasks at the same time, being aware of key priorities.
  • Undertake clinical audit: Undertake internal clinical audit through the collection of statistical, financial and other data related to service delivery.
  • Restore teeths’ natural colour: Bleach, clean or polish teeth to restore natural colour.
  • Treat snoring problems: Treat snoring problems using special appliances and/or laser surgery.
  • Contribute to continuity of health care: Contribute to the delivery of coordinated and continuous healthcare.
  • Promote health and safety policies in health services: Promote adherence to local, regional, national and EU Health and Safety legislation, policies, guidelines and protocols.
  • Use e-health and mobile health technologies: Use mobile health technologies and e-health (online applications and services) in order to enhance the provided healthcare.
  • Discuss dental treatment options with patient: Discuss findings, diagnoses, aetiology with the patient and let the patient participate in considering risks, benefits and prognoses of the treatment options.
  • Use orthodontic tools: Use orthodontic tools such as gauges, dental placement instruments, probes, scissors, and X-ray units.
  • Ensure proper appointment administration: Set up a proper procedure to manage appointments, including policies related to cancellation and nonappearance.
  • Empathise with the healthcare user: Understand the background of clients` and patients’ symptoms, difficulties and behaviour. Be empathetic about their issues; showing respect and reinforcing their autonomy, self-esteem and independence. Demonstrate a concern for their welfare and handle according to the personal boundaries, sensitivities, cultural differences and preferences of the client and patient in mind.
  • Treat tooth decay: Treat tooth decay by assessing the risk, extent and activity of tooth decay, and recommend and provide appropriate therapy, whether surgical or non-surgical.
  • Manage edentulous patients: Manage patients who lack one or more teeth by providing fixed, removable and implant prostheses.
  • Manage adverse reactions to anaesthesia: Handle patients with adverse reactions to anaesthetics administered during the operation.
  • Manage healthcare users’ data: Keep accurate client records which also satisfy legal and professional standards and ethical obligations in order to facilitate client management, ensuring that all clients’ data (including verbal, written and electronic) are treated confidentially.
  • Manage occlusion: Assess how the teeth of the lower jaw fit to the teeth of the upper jaw, recognising and managing malocclusion, or a bad contact between the teeth.
  • Deal with emergency care situations: Assess the signs and be well-prepared for a situation that poses an immediate threat to a person’s health, security, property or environment.
  • Minimise occupational hazards in dentistry practice: Understand and implement procedures to minimise occupational hazards in dentistry.
  • Provide health education: Provide evidence based strategies to promote healthy living, disease prevention and management.
  • Select materials for orthodontic appliances: Determine the appropriate materials for removable or permanent orthodontic appliances, paying attention to design and function as specified by prescription.
  • Deal with patients’ anxiety: Recognise and handle the fears of patients undergoing a dental treatment.
  • Communicate effectively in healthcare: Communicate effectively with patients, families and other caregivers, health care professionals, and community partners.
  • Follow clinical guidelines: Follow agreed protocols and guidelines in support of healthcare practice which are provided by healthcare institutions, professional associations, or authorities and also scientific organisations.
  • Supervise dental staff: Supervise the work of dental staff, making sure they manage equipment and supplies appropriately.
  • Keep records for dental prostheses: Make the required records for the laboratory fabrication of dental prostheses and appliances.
  • Counsel on nutrition and its impact on oral health: Counsel patients about good nutrition and its impact on oral health.
  • Advise on healthcare users’ informed consent: Ensure patients/clients are fully informed about the risks and benefits of proposed treatments so they can give informed consent, engaging patients/clients in the process of their care and treatment.
  • Treat cases of malocclusion: Treat and eliminate malocclusion, a bad fit between the upper and lower teeth, which affects chewing ability. Restore full function to the teeth by removing certain teeth, making room for teeth still erupting, then attach braces to the teeth to straighten the bite.
  • Interpret findings from medical examinations: Interpret the findings from a patient`s history, clinical examination, radiographic examination, and other diagnostic tests and procedures.
  • Perform dental clinical examination: Perform a comprehensive examination of the patient`s teeth and gums, collecting data using clinical, radiographic, and periodontal techniques as well as dental charting and other techniques in order to assess the patient`s needs.
  • Comply with quality standards related to healthcare practice: Apply quality standards related to risk management, safety procedures, patients feedback, screening and medical devices in daily practice, as they are recognized by the national professional associations and authorities.
  • Fit dental appliances: Fit dental appliances in the patient`s mouth to alter the position of teeth and jaws or realign teeth.
  • Comply with legislation related to health care: Comply with the regional and national legislation that is relevant to one`s work and apply it in practice.
  • Listen actively: Give attention to what other people say, patiently understand points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times; able to listen carefully the needs of customers, clients, passengers, service users or others, and provide solutions accordingly.
  • Apply health sciences: Apply a broad range of bio-medical, psycho-social, organisational, educational, and societal aspects of health, disease, and healthcare to improve healthcare services and to improve quality of life.
  • Correct temporomandibular joint abnormalities: Correct joint abnormalities by realigning the teeth to improve the patient`s bite and help the jaw fit together properly.
  • Treat exposure of dental pulp: Treat exposure of tooth pulp by pulp capping, removal of pulp from pulp chamber, or root canal, using dental instruments.
  • Work in a multicultural environment in health care: Interact, relate and communicate with individuals from a variety of different cultures, when working in a healthcare environment.
  • Carry out local anesthesia in dental procedures: Achieve local anesthesia for dental procedures, managing complications related to anaesthesia.
  • Diagnose abnormalities of dental-facial structures: Assess abnormalities in jaw development, tooth position, and other structures of the teeth and face.
  • Promote inclusion: Promote inclusion in health care and social services and respect diversity of beliefs, culture, values and preferences, keeping in mind the importance of equality and diversity issues.
  • Interact with healthcare users: Communicate with clients and their carer’s, with the patient’s permission, to keep them informed about the clients’ and patients’ progress and safeguarding confidentiality.
  • Provide treatment strategies for challenges to human health: Identify possible treatment protocols for the challenges to human health within a given community in cases such as infectious diseases of high consequences at the global level.
  • Provide instruction in orthodontic procedures: Lead orthodontic procedures, providing clear instructions to dental staff and technical assistants.
  • Manage infection control in the facility: Implement a set of measures to prevent and control infections, formulating and establishing health and safety procedures and policies.
  • Ensure safety of healthcare users: Make sure that healthcare users are being treated professionally, effectively and safe from harm, adapting techniques and procedures according to the person’s needs, abilities or the prevailing conditions.
  • Apply organisational techniques: Employ a set of organisational techniques and procedures which facilitate the achievement of the goals set. Use these resources efficiently and sustainably, and show flexibility when required.
  • Develop a collaborative therapeutic relationship: Develop a mutually collaborative therapeutic relationship during treatment, fostering and gaining healthcare users’ trust and cooperation.
  • Apply context specific clinical competences: Apply professional and evidence based assessment, goal setting, delivery of intervention and evaluation of clients, taking into account the developmental and contextual history of the clients, within one`s own scope of practice.
  • Refer healthcare users: Make referrals to other professionals, based on the healthcare user’s requirements and needs, especially when recognising that additional healthcare diagnostics or interventions are required.
  • Work in multidisciplinary health teams: Participate in the delivery of multidisciplinary health care, and understand the rules and competences of other healthcare related professions.
  • Write prescriptions for medication in dentistry: Determine indications and contraindications for the use of medication in dental practice, determining their dosages and routes of administration and writing prescriptions for medication used in dentistry.
  • Accept own accountability: Accept accountability for one`s own professional activities and recognise the limits of one`s own scope of practice and competencies.
  • Manage dental emergencies: Handle dental emergencies which are diverse in their nature, such as infections, bacterial, fungal, and viral, fractured teeth, responding to each individual case with a treatment that is unique to the situation.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of dental practitioner. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Impact of social contexts on health: The social and cultural contexts of individuals` behaviours, and the impact on their health within their social and cultural context.
  • Employment law: The law which mediates the relationship between employees and employers. It concerns employees’ rights at work which are binding by the work contract.
  • Pedagogy: The discipline that concerns the theory and practice of education including the various instructional methods for educating individuals or groups.
  • Manage healthcare staff: The managerial tasks and responsibilities required in a health care setting.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of dental practitioner. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Inform policy makers on health-related challenges: Provide useful information related to health care professions to ensure policy decisions are made in the benefit of communities.
  • Organise public oral health programmes: Organise public oral health programmes to educate people on healthy lifestyles and good practices to protect teeth and gums.
  • Build community relations: Establish affectionate and long-lasting relationships with local communities, e.g. by organising special programms for kindergarden, schools and for disabled and older people, raising awareness and receiving community appreciation in return.
  • Conduct continuing professional development workshops: Organise and conduct various workshops or tutoring programs to develop and improve medical or dental competencies and clinical performances of healthcare professionals.
  • Record healthcare users’ billing information: Record the healthcare user`s information for the billing of provided medical services.
  • Handle payments in dentistry: Handle taxes, paychecks and insurance payments for the provided dental services.
  • Conduct health related research: Conduct research in health related topics and communicate findings orally, through public presentations or by writing reports and other publications.
  • Employ foreign languages for health-related research: Use foreign languages for conducting and collaborating in health-related research.
  • Train employees: Lead and guide employees through a process in which they are taught the necessary skills for the perspective job. Organise activities aimed at introducing the work and systems or improving the performance of individuals and groups in organisational settings.
  • Employ foreign languages in care: Communicate in foreign languages with healthcare users, their carers, or services providers. Use foreign languages to faciliate patient care according to the needs of the patient.
  • Contribute to practice innovation in health care: Contribute to improving care in the daily practice, by adapting to new technological improvements or innovations related to devices, material, procedures or guidelines used in health care.

ISCO group and title

2261 – Dentists

  1. Dental practitioner – ESCO
  2. About dentists and dental practitioners | Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care
  3. Featured image: Photo by Caroline LM on Unsplash
Last updated on August 28, 2023