Graduates facing unemployment, says ADA report

Dental graduates facing unemployment
Dentistry graduates could be facing unemployment, says the ADA

The Australian Dental Association (ADA) has made public an internal committee report on the dental workforce to address the oft-expressed belief that there is a shortage of dentists in Australia. On the contrary, the report says current statistics from the Dental Board of Australia could suggest early indicators of “of underemployment and growing unemployment in dentistry”.

The Special Purpose Committee on Dental Workforce was asked by the federal council of the ADA to report on the National Oral Health Plan 2004-2013. The committee drew on data from the AIHW and the Dental Board to gather as much accurate and up-to-date information as possible. A copy of the committee’s report is available online here.

One of the problems identified by the committee in its report is the number of graduating dental students around the country. The report points out that are many more dentists in training than are needed to replace retiring dentists over the next decade. In fact, in 2009 there were 1,803 practising dentists aged 60 years or more and 2,803 aged 50 to 59 years—in other words, the report says, every dentist over the age of 50 years would have to retire over the next five years to match the number of dentists who will graduate or pass the ADC exam in the next five years to maintain the current status.

The report also points out that as a consequence of the National Oral Health Plan, the occupation of ‘dentist’ was added to the Skilled Occupation List (SOL) by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. As a result, between 2000 and 2004 there were 249 overseas-qualified dentists who successfully completed the ADC assessment process: between 2005 and 2010 there were 1,041 successful.

“Between 2006 and 2012, the dental workforce increased by 3,032 or 19 per cent. During the same period the population of Australia increased from 20.7 million to 22.6 million or 9.3 per cent approximately,” the authors write.

They add that the number of dentists registered increased by 2011 or 16.4 per cent but it is more difficult to identify the actual growth in allied dental practitioner numbers by practitioner (dental hygienists, dental therapists and oral health therapists) as prior to 2006, oral health therapists were categorised as either a dental hygienist or a dental therapist. That said, it is possible to identify that when added together, there has been a substantial growth in allied dental practitioner numbers overall from 2,574 in 2006 to 3,510 in 2012 (36 per cent).

The report predicts growing under- and unemployment as a result of present policies.


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