Access to reliable, comprehensive, timely and nationally consistent trend data is required to understand the current health workforce and for its future planning. There is particular interest in changes to the size and composition of the various health professions, and the potential impacts of these changes on health-care delivery.

This report provides data on the Australian dental practitioner workforce in 2012.

Size of the dental workforce

  • In 2012, there were 19,462 dental practitioners registered in Australia.
  • Three-quarters of these practitioners (14,687) were dentists.
  • The number of employed dentists increased by 5.3%, from 12,599 in 2011 to 13,266 in 2012.
  • There were 1,330 dentists working as specialists. Orthodontics was the most common specialty (518 dentists).
  • In 2012, there were also 1,425 dental hygienists, 1,117 dental therapists, 1,100 dental prosthetists and 675 oral health therapists employed in their fields.

Sex and age of the dental workforce


  • Dentistry is a male dominated profession; however, the proportion of female dentists increased to 36.5% in 2012 from 35.2% in 2011.
  • Employed dental therapists, dental hygienists and oral health therapists, were predominantly women (96.9, 94.6% and 84.7%, respectively).
  • Dental prosthetists were much more likely to be men. Women made up 14.7% of this workforce, an increase from 13.9% in 2011.


  • The average age of dentists employed in 2012 was 43.4 (the same as in 2011) and 23.4% were aged 55 and over.
  • Employed dental prosthetists, dental therapists, dental hygienists and oral health therapists were aged 49.1, 46.4, 37.4 and 31.0, on average, respectively.

Working arrangements

  • Dentists worked, on average, 37.0 hours per week in 2012, a slight decrease from 2011 (37.3 hours per week). In 2012, 31.7% dentists worked part time (less than 35 hours per week).
  • The majority of employed dentists were working in private practice (79.7% of clinicians and 77.3% of all dentists).
  • Most specialists worked in private practice (75.0%) and in Major cities (89.1%).

Major cities had more dentists per capita than other areas in 2012 at 64.3 full-time equivalent (FTE) dentists per 100,000 population, and more than the Australian rate of 56.9 FTE dentists.