Main findings

In 2006, there were 1,171 practising dental therapists, 674 practising hygienists and 371 practising oral health therapists. Dental therapists were the oldest group among the oral health labour force, with an average age of 42.9 years. The oral health practitioner workforce was overwhelmingly female, with 98.8% of dental therapists, 96.7% of hygienists and 94.8% of oral health therapists being female in 2006.

New South Wales had the lowest rate of practising dental therapists with 3.3 per 100,000 population, and Western Australia had the highest with 13.9 per 100,000. The highest rate of practising hygienists was in the Australian Capital Territory, at 11.3 per 100,000 population, while the lowest was in Tasmania at 1.0 per 100,000 (excluding the Northern Territory who had no registered hygienists in 2006).  Queensland had the highest rate of oral health therapists, with 5.6 per 100,000 population, while there were no registered oral health therapists in Tasmania, the Northern Territory or the Australian Capital Territory.

The large majority (82.0%) of dental therapists worked in the public sector while hygienists practised predominantly in the private sector (92.7%). Two-thirds of oral health therapists (62.0%) worked in private general practice. The distribution of hygienists across remoteness areas was highly skewed towards the more populous regions. Oral health therapists worked the longest week (33.4 hours).