The Dental Board of Australia proposed to modernise the regulation of dental therapists (DTs), dental hygienists (DHs) and oral health therapists (OHTs). If the Health Ministers from each state and territory agree, the requirement for these dental practitioners to have a ‘structured professional relationship’ with a dentist and described as not ‘independent practitioners’ will be removed. Along with dental prosthetists, it is also proposed that these dental practitioners will not be limited to extended scope of practice courses approved by the Dental Board of Australia. They will be allowed to select and complete Continuing Professional Development course just like dentists and dental specialists have done for the last 15 years.
These proposed changes are designed to promote a more flexible and innovative workforce that is able to meet the demands of an increasingly older population where there is a maldistribution or concentration of the dental workforce in capital cities as opposed to regional, rural and remote areas of our vast land.
The disparities in oral health status and access to dental services for Australia’s Indigenous or first Nations people when compared with non-Indigenous people is still high. Strategies to ‘Close the Gap’ have not resulted in reducing the inequality of oral health outcomes.