Job satisfaction among dental therapists in South Africa


  • Pratima K. Singh BDS, Dip. Odont, MSc, PhD

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Dentistry, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
    • Dr. Pratima K. Singh, School of Dentistry, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Private Bag X54001, Durban 4000, South Africa. Tel.: 27-31-2607826; Fax: 27-31-2608069; e-mail: Pratima K. Singh is with the School of Dentistry, University of KwaZulu-Natal.

    Search for more papers by this author


Objectives: This article forms part of a larger research project on the dental therapy profession in South Africa. The objective of this study was to determine the level of job satisfaction among dental therapists trained at one South African university.

Methods: This study was conducted using the qualitative research approach, where purposive and convenience sampling was used to select interviewees. They were asked a single question: “Do you think that dental therapists in South Africa are satisfied within their present careers?” The narrative data was interpreted using thematic analysis, and the data was validated by using the markers of trustworthiness.

Results: All stakeholders believed that dental therapists trained at this university were not satisfied in the private and public sectors. In the private sector, they expressed frustration with their limited scope of practice. In the public service, lack of posts, poorly functioning dental facilities, and inadequate remuneration caused high levels of dissatisfaction. Many dental therapists chose this profession as a stepping stone to dentistry.

Conclusions: The roles and scope of practice of all members of the oral health team needs to be redefined within the context of the primary health care approach. Universities need to recruit students appropriately to fulfill their role within this team. Dental services in the public sector need to be upgraded to meet the oral health needs of the country.