Dental Board of Australia’s annual report: snapshot of the profession

22 April 2019

Earlier this year the Dental Board of Australia released its annual report for the 2017–18 financial year. Although the statistics included in the report are well out-of-date, it does provide an interesting snapshot of the profession from several angles. 

Dental practitioners make up around 3.3% of all registered health practitioners across the 15 registered professions. 73% of all practitioners work in NSW, Victoria and Queensland. 

Notifications are also a significant area of interest. Notification refers to any complaint or concern about a registered health practitioner or student. Due to the co-regulatory models that exist around the country, the Board data does not reflect every jurisdiction. In NSW, notifications are managed by the Health Professionals Councils Authority and the Health Care Complaints Commission while in Queensland, the Office of the Health Ombudsman is the first point of receipt for all complaints about health practitioners. The following data refers only to the notifications received through the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). 

Of the 7276 notifications received under the national scheme, 539 (7.4%) were about dental practitioners. This was a slight increase from the previous year (526). Of the total number received, 501 were about dentists, 25 related to dental prosthetists and the remainder were about allied dental practitioners. 

When the number of notifications from NSW is added in, and the figures are broken down by jurisdiction, the number of notifications almost double. 

In addition to those listed above, there were 31 mandatory notifications made about dental practitioners during the same period. Mandatory notifications are those where someone has formed a reasonable belief that a registered dental practitioner or student has behaved in a way that constitutes notifiable conduct. In the National Law, notifiable conduct is defined as: 

- practising while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs; 

- sexual misconduct; 

- placing the public at risk of substantial harm because of an impairment; or 

- placing the public at risk because of a significant departure from accepted professional standards. 

In 2017–18, most of the 31 mandatory notifications received about dental practitioners, related to a significant departure from accepted professional standards. 

Finally, but by no means least, there were 55 new statutory offence complaints about dental practitioners during the 2017–18 period, 77% less than those received in the previous year. This reflected 9.5% of all statutory offence complaints received across all health professions. 

There are four types of statutory offences outlined in the National Law. They include: 

- unlawful use of a protected title; 

- unlawful claims by individuals or organisations as to registration; 

- performing a restricted act; 

- unlawful advertising. 

Three-quarters of new matters related to title and practice protection; the majority of the remaining matters related to advertising breaches.  

AHPRA and the Dental Board have now expanded the range of resources available to practitioners to check if their advertising complies with the National Law. If you haven’t checked these resources out, we recommend you visit the Dental Board of Australia  to make sure you comply. The website also provides further explanation regarding the use of specialist titles. 

If you are unsure about your advertising, delegating tasks to other staff members or generally have questions about regulation and practice, your Branch and Federal Office are here to help.