Dental workforce

All dental practitioners must be registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) to practise in Australia. There is a range of different types of registration to match different levels of training and experience. Most dental practitioners have general registration. General registration divisions include dentists, dental prosthetists, dental hygienists, oral health therapists and dental therapists. Dentists may also qualify and be eligible for specialist registration. There are 13 approved dental specialities in Australia (Dental Board of Australia 2018). 

Data presented in this section were sourced from the National Health Workforce Dataset (NHWDS).

Key terms

Full-time equivalent (FTE) rate: The FTE rate (number of FTE dental practitioners per 100,000 population) is a measure of supply. By defining supply in terms of the FTE rate, meaningful comparisons of supply can be made across geographic areas and over time.    

Size and distribution of the dental workforce

Data on the size and distribution of the dental workforce is required to understand the current dental workforce and its capacity to meet the community’s needs for prevention and treatment of oral disease.

The number of all registered dental practitioners in Australia has increased from 20,469 in 2013 to 22,042 in 2016

  • The number of registered dentists in Australia has increased from 15,479 in 2013 to 16,549 in 2016. 
  • Around 9 in 10 of all dental practitioners registered in 2016 were employed in their field.
  • The proportion of dentists employed in their field has remained relatively stable, ranging from 89% in 2013 to 91% in 2016.

Explore the data using the Dental workforce interactive 1 below. 

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In 2016, the number of FTE dentists in Australia was 57.7 per 100,000 population

In 2016:

  • Across jurisdictions, the Australian Capital Territory had the highest FTE rate of dentists (65.4), Tasmania had the highest FTE rate of dental prosthetists (9.1), South Australia had the highest FTE rate of dental hygienists (11.1) and oral health therapists (7.9) and Western Australia had the highest FTE rate of dental therapists (7.5).
  • Across remoteness areas, Major cities had the highest FTE rate of dentists (64.6), dental hygienists (5.6) and oral health therapists (5.1). Inner regional areas had the highest FTE rate of dental prosthetists (6.0) and Remote and very remote areas had the highest FTE rate of dental therapists (4.0).
  • The FTE rate of dentists ranged from 39.3 in the Northern Territory to 65.4 in the Australian Capital Territory.
  • The FTE rate of dentists ranged from 25.1 in Remote and very remote areas to 64.6 in Major cities.

Over time:

  • The FTE rate of dentists in Australia ranged from 55.4 in 2013 to 57.7 in 2016.
  • The FTE rate of oral health therapists in Australia has steadily increased from 3.2 in 2013 to 4.9 in 2016.

Explore the data using the Dental workforce interactive 2 below.

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Major cities had the highest FTE rate of dentists employed in the private sector (51.5) whilst Remote and very remote areas had the highest FTE rate of dentists employed in the public sector (8.4).

In 2016, the Australian Capital Territory had the highest FTE rate of dentists employed in the private sector (53.8) and the lowest FTE rate of dentists employed in the public sector (4.9) whilst the Northern Territory had the lowest FTE rate of dentists employed in the private sector (24.0) and the highest FTE rate of dentists employed in the public sector (11.9).

Explore the data using the Dental workforce interactive 3 below.

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Characteristics of employed dentists

Data presented in this section focuses on the characteristics of dentists employed in Australia.

In 2016, around 4 in 10 (41%) employed dentists were female

In 2016:

  • Around 4 in 10 employed dentists worked part-time (39%).
  • Around 1 in 5 were aged 30 years or less (21%).
  • Around 1 in 4 employed dentists obtained their initial qualification in countries other than Australia and New Zealand (25%).

Explore the data using the Dental workforce interactive 4 below.

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In 2016, dentists employed in Australia predominantly worked in private practices 

  • In 2016, the majority of dentists worked in group private practices (8,262) or solo private practices (3,986) accounting for 84% of all employed dentists in Australia. This trend was similar across all jurisdictions.
  • In 2016, 836 (5.7%) dentists worked in public clinics in Australia.

Explore the data using the Dental workforce interactive 5 below.

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Dental specialists

There are 13 approved dental specialties in Australia. All specialists must hold a qualification in the specialty and meet all the requirements for general registration as a dentist (Dental Board of Australia 2018).

In 2016, around 1 in 10 (10%) employed dentists were specialists

In 2016:

  • The largest group of dental specialists in Australia were orthodontists (529) equivalent to 36% of all dental specialists.
  • Around 3 in 4 (74%) dental specialists in Australia were male.

Explore the data using the Dental workforce interactive 6 below.

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