Australia's supply of dentists 'uneven'

Practising dentists are unevenly distributed across Australia's states and territories, according to the latest report released today by the AIHW's Dental Statistics and Research Unit based at the University of Adelaide.

Dental Labour Force, Australia 2000 shows that Australia's dentist workforce has increased overall by just over 17% between 1994 and 2000, resulting in a 9% increase in the supply of dentists from 43 per 100,000 people in 1994 to 46.9 per 100,000 in 2000.

Dentist practising rates varied from 25.3 dentists per 100,000 population in Tasmania to 59.3 in the Australian Capital Territory.

Substantial variation also existed across geographical regions: supply was much higher in capital cities overall (55.7 dentists per 100,000 population), compared with 31.4 for all other areas within the states and territories.

There were 8,991 Australians employed and practising in dentistry. Most dentists (8,681) were employed in clinical practice, with the remainder working as administrators, educators or researchers.

Report co-author, Dana Teusner, said that the composition of Australia's dentist workforce had changed over recent years.

'Our dentists are getting older, and there are also more women in the workforce-with the proportion of female dentists increasing from about 18% in 1994 to 23% in 2000.'

In 1994, 43% of dentists were under 40 years of age; by 2000 this fell to about 36%, with the proportion of dentists aged over 50 years increasing from about 28% to 32% over the same period.

Dentists worked an average of 39.3 hours per week, with male dentists working more hours per week on average (41.1) than female dentists (33.7).

Allied dental practitioners make up 22% of the entire dental workforce. Of these, most were dental therapists (1,121), followed by dental prosthetists (576), and dental hygienists (319).

Supply of this workforce also varied substantially among the states and territories-practising rates for therapists ranged from 3.3 per 100,000 population in New South Wales to 17.6 in Western Australia.

South Australia reported the lowest supply of dental prosthetists (1.8 per 100,000 population), while Tasmania had the highest (11.1).

New South Wales had 0.9 dental hygienists per 100,000 population, while South Australia had the highest rate (7.3).


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