More dentists join dental labour force, but only in major cities

The supply of dentists in Australia grew from 46.6 to 50.3 full-time equivalent practising dentists per 100,000 people between 2000 and 2006, according to a new report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Capital cities continue to have more dentists per head of population than other areas, with increases in dentist numbers occurring only in major cities. Conversely, numbers have decreased in inner regional areas.

‘Supply was highest in the Australian Capital Territory and lowest in Tasmania and the Northern Territory, with all other states around the national average,’ said AIHW spokesperson Ms Dana Teusner.

The report, Dentists, specialists and allied practitioners: the Australian dental labour force, 2006, shows that in 2006, there were about 10,400 practising dentists in Australia, with four-fifths working in the private sector. Of the total 10,400 practising dentists in Australia, 1,300 were dental specialists.

There were also an additional 3,100 allied dental practitioners, comprising dental hygienists, dental therapists, and oral health therapists—nearly all of whom were women.

Allied dental practitioners experienced the strongest growth in the decade to 2006, with a particular increase seen in the number of oral health therapists between 2003 and 2006—this is due to it being a new registration category.

The report found that dentists are tending to work fewer hours per week—down from 39.2 hours in 2000 to 38.5 in 2006.

‘This is likely to be due to a combination of the ageing of the dental labour force and the increasing proportion of women in the labour force—older dentists tend to work shorter hours and female dentists are more likely to work part-time,’ Ms Teusner said.

In 2006, about 29% of practising dentists were women and almost all dental hygienists, dental therapists and oral health therapists were women. Nearly 90% of dental prosthetists were men.

The average age of dentists in Australia was 45.1 years, up from 44.4 years in 2000.

Two other AIHW dental reports were also released today: Oral health practitioners in Australia 2006 and Oral health practitioner labour force projections 2006–2025.

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, 10 August 2011

Further information: Ms Dana Teusner, AIHW, tel. (08) 8313 4227 mob. 0437 799 976

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer (02) 6244 1032