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The number of dentists in Australia is on the rise, with a higher proportion of women working in the field, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Dental workforce 2012, looks at the characteristics of the Australian dental practitioner workforce in 2012. A dental practitioner is a trained professional in dentistry, oral health therapy, dental hygiene, dental therapy or dental prosthetics. Overall, there were 19,462 dental practitioners registered in Australia in 2012.

The report shows that the number of employed dentists rose by about 5%, from 12,599 to 13,266 between 2011 and 2012.  Of these, 1,330 worked as specialists, with orthodontics the most common specialty.

'Overall, dentists made up three quarters of dental practitioners registered in Australia,' said AIHW spokesperson Dr Adrian Webster.

There were 1,425 dental hygienists, 1,117 dental therapists, 1,100 dental prosthetists and 675 oral health therapists employed in their respective fields.

'While dentistry is traditionally a male dominated profession, the proportion of female dentists rose from about 35% to almost 37% between 2011 and 2012,' Dr Webster said.

Employed dental therapists, dental hygienists and oral health therapists were predominantly women (97%, 95% and 85% respectively), while dental prosthetists were much more likely to be men, with women making up just 15% of this workforce.

On average, dentists worked 37 hours per week in 2012, a slight drop from 2011. About 32% of dentists worked part time.

The majority of employed dentists worked in private practice (80% of clinicians and 77% of all dentists), as did most specialists (75%).

'Most specialists worked in Major cities, and these areas also had more dentists per capita than other areas of Australia,' Dr Webster said.

Major cities had the highest supply of employed dentists in Australia at 64.3 full-time equivalent (FTE) dentists per 100,000 people, followed by Inner regional areas at 42.2 FTE dentists per 100,000 people. The lowest supply was in Remote/Very remote areas (21.5 FTE per 100,000 people).

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 13 January 2014

Further information: Dr Adrian Webster, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1119, mob. 0434 022 127

Full publication: Dental workforce 2012