The OHT Experience Part 2 – Private Ortho

Part 2 covers the experiences of a new graduate OHT working in a private orthodontic clinic. If you missed part 1 of the series covering the OHT experience in public health, check it out here. For experiences of new graduate dentists, head on over here.

Did you always want to work in an ortho-centred practice, or did you find yourself falling into it by chance?

I was actually dissuaded from working in an ortho-centred practice by a tutor in my final year due to the work, in her opinion, being repetitive and therefore boring. This left an impression on me and I was sure I would only work in a general private practice or in the public sector.

However, as a new graduate job-hunting, I came across a tempting position advertised in an ortho-centred general practice which ticked all the boxes. I was lucky to be offered the role, and began work apprehensively while still trying to remain open-minded. To my delight and relief, after falling into the role by chance, I fell in love with the new skills I learned, and the expanse and variety of the procedures offered at the clinic.

How did you find the whole process of finding a job?

It was important for me that I took a break between completing studies and before commencing work. Personally for me, this break involved four months of freedom. An adventurous and unlimited Summer, two holidays overseas and a chance to finally stop and relax. The downside was that I had perhaps missed out on some OHT roles advertised early in the new year. While some of my friends had already secured full time employment, I was just beginning my search. While I would choose this trade-off again if I had to, it meant that I was being offered multiple part time and casual roles while having no luck finding a suitable full time role.

The job seeking process provided work fairly quickly, but not work I was passionate about. In my opinion, it was quite easy to find work in mobile dental vans. This provided the boost of confidence and time management skills valuable to a New Grad (examining on average 30 school-age patients a day), but didn’t allow for continuity or complexity of treatment. This kind of enthusing work came months after working multiple casual roles.

In summary, finding work was neither stressful nor difficult, but being selective about roles tended to increase both these factors.

How do you find the mentorship in your practice?

My ortho-based practice is a 3-chair clinic. There is a principal dentist (practice owner), an associate dentist, and myself. The principal dentist has gone above and beyond to mentor me and his passion for teaching and learning is evident in our day-to-day interactions. When I have a cancellation or gap, I’m encouraged to observe procedures ranging from implants, botox and composite veneers. In regards to orthodontics, I’ve been involved in a hands-on learning process overseen by the principal dentist: first teaching me the basics on a typodont, allowing me to practice, supervising my first few appointments and then giving me the autonomy and independence I needed to build confidence.

I believe even the enthusiasm and confidence with which a senior clinician introduces a new OHT to long-term patients adds to the merits of a good mentor, and I was fortunate in this regard too.

What are your regular working hours? Do you have enough/too many hours?

At this practice I work 2-3 days with varying hours. This was one of the downsides to an otherwise awesome job. I have definitely found myself craving more stability, as my hours depended on when and if patients are booked in. While I’m generally busy, some days I only work a half-day and it may be another few days before my next shift.

How flexible is your work schedule for holidays/courses/sick leave?

Only working a few days per week, there is a lot of room and flexibility for other commitments. In regards to CPD, I’m expected to pay for my own unless it is organised by my employer.

Do you practice more hygiene or therapy?

I definitely practice more hygiene in this role. The majority of patients attend for their elastics change appointment and often needed calculus removed. Within the hygiene scope, I also practice a lot of periodontics and routine scale cleans. In regards to therapy, I mainly complete fissure sealants and fillings on deciduous teeth.

Do you think you are practicing to your full scope? Or do you sometimes feel you are practicing below it, or being pushed to practice above your scope?

I feel I’m able to practice a wide breadth of my scope. My mentor and principal dentist instilled a lot of confidence in me and they’re happy for me to complete restorative work within my scope. Its been an excellent learning opportunity to practice and broaden the orthodontics skillset I had learned at Uni during a short intensive.

What do you believe is a fair rate of pay for a first year OHT in a private ortho clinic?

$35/h with prospects of increasing to $40/h is fair. Starting at $40/h is good. Starting at anything above $40/h – I would have considered myself very lucky.

What is the best advice you’ve been given?

One of my tutors in my final year of university repeatedly told us “stay humble, stay hungry.” This resonated with me during moments when I realised I had only learned a drop’s worth of knowledge in the sea that is dentistry. It has pushed me to keep learning, and I find myself voluntarily researching more so than I ever did during my degree.

“Stay hungry” is advice I have also interpreted as “do not become complacent.” Once I feel I have learned all that I can in a field or a role, I want to push myself towards a new challenge. I then hope that the new experience will be simultaneously humbling and enriching.

What is the best advice you can give?

In regards to employment, my best advice would be to approach job seeking open-mindedly. Be open to various roles as each one will offer different skill sets, opportunities and peers. However, know the difference between being open and settling. If you know you are selling yourself short in a role and you are not growing after having spent considerable time at a practice, it is time to leave. Actively search for new opportunities while working in your current role and give consideration and notice before leaving. After all, without the experience gained at your previous, less-than-perfect role, you may never land your ideal gig.

In regards to dentistry, my best advice is: be a people person. Be patient, empathetic, and remember you are treating a person (not just a mouth!). You will finish your shift feeling far more fulfilled and your patients will be grateful to have found a thoughtful practitioner they can return to.

Stay tuned! Viewpoints from the remaining sectors will be covered in the coming weeks

David is a recent graduate dentist working in private practice in regional NSW, Australia. Read more at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.