Scope of practice report released

The DBA’s scope of practice registration standards have led to confusion in the profession, according to the HWA report.

The Dental Board of Australia (the National Board) has welcomed the release of a report by Health Workforce Australia (HWA) on its review of roles and scope of practice of dental therapists, dental hygienists and oral health therapists. A statement from the Dental Board said, “The release of this document makes public the findings of the HWA and provides greater transparency for the community and practitioners.”

The HWA report found that there have been unintended and negative impacts from the Dental Board of Australia’s Scope of Practice Registration Standard that are affecting the abilities of dental hygienists, dental therapists and oral health therapists to work within their current potential Scope of Practice. This has arisen through confusion amongst dentists and these oral health practitioners about what is allowed within the Dental Board of Australia’s standard, what tasks oral health practitioners have been educated to undertake and the impediment caused by the requirement for supervision.

“A lack of clarity about the difference between independent practice and autonomous decision making was confusing to many dental practitioners,” the HWA concluded. “Some saw it as relating to oral health practitioners’ ability to undertake autonomous decision making, while others saw it as being able to set up as a sole trader. While the Scope of Practice Registration Standard says oral health practitioners exercise autonomous decision making, they cannot work without supervision (i.e. as an independent practitioner).

“Secondly there is a demand from oral health practitioners and many dentists for an extension of Scope of Practice but few opportunities to realise this through additional appropriate education.”

The DBA said that it has established a Scope of Practice Review Committee that includes representatives of all dental practitioner divisions. The committee met for the first time in July 2012 to provide advice to the National Board and to steer the review of the Scope of practice registration standard over the next 12 months. This review is part of the review of all registration standards, across professions, in the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme in 2013.



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  1. Where can I get the full article on the scope of practice of hygienists
    do you know the position regarding hygienists.therapists doing dental services and claimiming for payment from funds and medicare?
    I am told they have no provider numbers and so we as dentists can not claim benefits.As a result I got rid of my hygienists

    • Hi Dr Selia,

      We published an article on the debate around this topic in the May issue of Bite magazine (see it online at

      Our understanding is hygienists can now claim from Medicare if the treatment is part of a treatment plan overseen by a dentist. However, we strongly recommend you clarify that with Medicare or the ADA if you’re a member.

      All the best,

    • As a dual trained therapist and hygienist working in private practice I can assure any dentist that the preventive treatment an oral health professional can offer patients is far more valuable than simple operative procedures which dentists themselves can provide for their adult patients. If oral health professionals were valued rather than “used” dentists would find themselves treating patients with optimal oral health and long term sustainability. If the whole system was less money focused and more utilitarian, dentists would employ hygienists in every practice in Australia; public dental clinics would be open to anyone who wants an examination and medicare would pick up the tab just as it has done with optometrists for years. Most people don’t know they have a problem until the late stages of disease which is precisely why we as professionals should see as many patients as possible and be more pro-active in prevention.

  2. Hygienist are unable to claim Medicare benefits for epc patients. Patients are required to pay privately to be treated by the hygienist. However, hygienist are able to see and claim for dva patients


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