HWA report confirms oversupply of dentists

Dentists: there's too many, says the ADA.
Dentists: there’s too many, says the ADA.

This long awaited supply and demand study of the oral health workforce “Health Workforce 2025 – Oral Health” report confirms the long held view of the Australian Dental Association (ADA) that there are too many dentists and in fact dental hygienists, dental therapists and oral health therapists entering the workforce in Australia to meet current and projected demand.

President of the ADA, Dr Rick Olive, AM RFD, said, “For about a decade, the ADA has been seeking to have a formal study of the dental workforce undertaken to examine concerns about an oversupply of dentists. Our own statistics show we need about 510 new dentists entering the workforce per year to cater for replacement of retirees and population growth yet there are more than 1,000 per year being registered.”

In response to anecdotal reports, the ADA conducted a number of surveys which repeatedly show that dentist graduates are experiencing increasing difficulty obtaining full time work. These findings are consistent with Graduate Careers Australia reports which demonstrate large drops in the number of dentist graduates obtaining full time positions.

Dr Olive continued, “We are concerned about the future for dentist students. This is why we have called on the Australian Government to place a cap on the number of Commonwealth Supported Places in dental programmes, and more importantly to remove the occupation of dentist from the Skilled Occupation List to slow down the migration of overseas qualified dentists and free up available jobs for Australian graduates. With the release of this report, all governments, universities and other stakeholders now have an evidence base from which they can develop an appropriate dental workforce policy response.”

In undertaking their study, Health Workforce Australia (HWA) consulted broadly, and examined closely who is providing dental services and the type of dental services being provided in both public and private sectors. HWA applied seven alternative workforce planning projection scenarios, including increasing the demand for services, increasing productivity, reducing both migration and university graduate numbers. All scenarios presented the same result: the supply of the dental workforce is projected to exceed demand.

“Australia has clearly reached self-sufficiency in its supply of dentists. Given the investment that is made by the Australian Government and individuals to educate a dentist, every effort must now be made by government to ensure that Australian graduates have jobs at the end of their programme of study. A number of workforce policy options must be considered, not least of which must be the immediate removal of the occupation of dentist from the Skilled Occupation List”.


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