Oral Health Sciences
When did you last see your dental hygienist or your dentist? Perhaps you are one of over a million people nationwide who avoid going to the dental surgery because they are simply 'too scared'? Does it really matter if we don't visit the dentist for a regular check-up or have our teeth cleaned and polished by the dental hygienist? According to facts and figures highlighted in National Smile Month by the British Dental Health Foundation:
- Nine out of 10 adults have gum disease
- Gum disease is increasingly linked to heart disease, lung disease and other health problems
- Over 20% of children aged three have severe tooth decay in their front teeth
- More children under 16 are having orthodontic treatment now than ever before
Dental hygienists and dental therapists work to treatment plans provided by dentists. They are members of the dental team, working alongside dentists, dental nurses and dental technicians. Dental hygienists scale and polish teeth and are responsible for promoting good oral healthcare and the treatment and prevention of gum disease. Dental therapists are allowed to extract children's teeth, do simple fillings, take X-rays, and can give dental local anaesthetics.
A degree in Oral Health Sciences or Dental Hygiene and Dental Therapy (or diploma of higher education in Dental Hygiene and/or Dental Therapy) provides the route to qualifying as a dental hygienist or dental therapist. It is important to check course requirements very carefully for each university - see also What do I need to get on a course?
Example areas of study
Oral Health Science courses provide clinical experience in a wide variety of placements including hospital wards, specialist departments and outreach clinics where students develop their clinical skills and learn how to treat patients. Depending on the course, the theoretical topics of courses may include the following example areas of study:
- Human disease - medicine and surgery
- Plaque-related disease - dental caries, gingivitis, periodontitis
- Behavioural science
- Restorative dentistry
- Dental materials
- Dental public health
- Paediatric dentistry
- Oral disease
- Health, safety and infection control
- IT and health informatics
- Pain and anxiety control
- Oral health education
- Law and ethics
- Research methods
Some career possibilities
There is a nationwide shortage at present of dental hygienists and dental therapists. They work in general dental practice, the community dental service, hospital practice and the armed services. Graduate employment rates are very high. Another option is postgraduate study leading to higher degrees.
What do I need to get on a course?
Entry requirements for oral health courses do vary so make sure that you check the requirements at the institutions you wish to apply to. The list below will give you an idea of the grades and qualifications that you may need.
- UCAS Tariff: 160 - 240 points including biology
- A-level: CC-CCC including biology
- International Baccalaureate: 28 - 30 points including biology and preferably chemistry
- BTEC National Diploma: DDM in a relevant scientific subject
- SQA Highers: BBBB including biology and standard grade chemistry
- SQA Advanced Highers: CC-CCC including biology
- Irish Leaving Certificates: ABCCC including biology and another science subject
Offers of places on Oral Health Science courses depend on attendance at interview, passing Criminal Record Bureau checks, medical screening and immunisation against hepatitis B. Check all courses for their academic, work experience, health, CRB and interview requirements. You may be given a manual dexterity test at interview.
For your application or interview, evidence of the following could be useful:
- Work experience or work shadowing (observing a dental therapist or dental hygienist for a significant amount of time is expected)
- Good manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination (for example playing a musical instrument, sewing, model-making, bike maintenance - you may need to take evidence, such as a photograph or a model, to interview)
- A caring attitude and ability to empathise with people
- Genuine interest in dental work and reasons for a career in dental therapy or dental hygiene
To find out more about the typical subjects you will study, potential career paths and further information useful for your application log-on to Course Discover at www.coursediscoveronline.co.uk*
*NB: Your school or college will need a subscription to Course Discover in order for you to gain access, for further information go to:www.coursediscover.co.uk