Number of dentists grows, but supply remains lower outside major cities

The number of dentists working in Australia is rising, and capital cities continue to have more dentists per capita than other areas, according to a report released today by the Australian institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Trends in the Australian dental labour force, 2000 to 2009, shows an overall increase in the supply of dentists (including dental specialists) across Australia in the decade to 2009—from 46.9 to 54.1 practising dentists per 100,000 people.

The number of dentists per 100,000 people in Major cities was double that in Outer regional areas, and almost triple that in Remote/Very remote areas.

‘While the number of dentists in regional and remote areas is still well below major cities, there have been increases in the number of dentists in all remoteness areas between 2000 and 2009,’ said AIHW spokesperson Professor Kaye Roberts-Thomson.

These increases have ranged from 9% in Outer regional areas to 40% in Remote/Very remote 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.

Dentists tended to work slightly fewer hours per week (37.4) in 2009 than they did in 2000 (39.3).

The dental labour force is made up of dentists, dental specialists and allied practitioners, including dental hygienists, dental therapists, oral health therapists and dental prosthetists.

‘In 2009, the Australian dental labour force was dominated by general dental practitioners, with 11,900 dentists making up 67% of the workforce. Among these, 4 in every 5 worked in the private sector,’ Professor Roberts-Thomson said.

The remaining labour force was mostly made up of dental therapists (8%), prosthetists (7%), hygienists (6%) and oral health therapists (4%).

‘There were around 1,440 dental specialists in Australia in 2009, and orthodontists were the largest specialty group, making up 39%,’ Professor Roberts-Thomson said.

There were around 3,800 allied dental practitioners in Australia in 2009. Almost all dental hygienists, dental therapists and oral health therapists were women, while nearly 90% of the 1,000 or more practising dental prosthetists were men.

The average age of dentists has increased from 44.3 to 45.2 years between 2000 and 2009.

The number of female dentists increased from 2,042 to 3,869 between 2000 and 2009.

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, 12 June 2012

Further information: Professor Kaye Roberts-Thomson, tel. 08 8313 5438, mob. 0439 840 870