Dental therapists work at public or free health clinics, tribal health clinics, underserved schools, rural health clinics, correctional facilities, mobile health units, and veteran’s hospitals, nursing homes, and school health offices.
Some people start out in the field by working as dental assistants or dental hygienists. And others work as both hygienists or assistants and therapists in order to increase their chances of finding employment. Many people enter the field after completing postsecondary training directly after high school. College students can learn about job openings via internships, college career centers, and other institutional-based programs and services. Other popular job-search strategies include attending career fairs, using job-search sites such as LinkedIn, and learning about job openings through one’s professional network.
Job-seekers must keep in mind that they have a limited geographic area in the United States in which to work. As of 2021, dental therapists were only licensed to work in Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington—although many state legislatures are developing licensing rules for therapists. If you do not live in one of the aforementioned states, check with your state’s department of regulation for the latest information on licensing for dental therapists.
A skilled dental therapist who is not already a dental hygienist may choose to receive training to become a hygienist in order to earn higher pay and have access to job opportunities in all U.S. states. Some therapists advance by receiving pay raises and/or managerial duties. A few therapists pursue advanced study to become dentists or dental educators.
Tips for Entry
As a student, gain experience by volunteering or completing an internship at a dental office.
A strong background in math and science is helpful in this field; take classes in these subjects.
Become active in your school’s health club.
Be willing to relocate. It will open more opportunities.