FAQs – Revised Scope of practice registration standard

Revised Scope of practice registration standard and guidelines in effect 1 July 2020

These FAQs are to help dental practitioners understand changes to the Scope of practice registration standard (the standard) and Scope of practice guidelines (the guidelines).   

The primary role of the Dental Board of Australia (the Board) is to regulate dental practitioners for the safety of the public.  

The Board and Ahpra are unable to provide advice on specific, individual matters. Dental practitioners can seek advice from sources such as professional associations and legal advisors in conjunction with a working knowledge of the Board’s registration standards, policies, codes and guidelines and the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory.

 

The revised standard applies to all registered dental practitioners (dentists, dental hygienists, dental prosthetists, dental therapists, oral health therapists), except those with student or non-practising registration. The key change is the removal of the requirement for dental hygienists, dental therapists and oral health therapists to practise within a structured professional relationship with a dentist. We have also removed the term ‘independent practitioner’ from the standard.

All dental practitioners are members of the healthcare team and are expected to work with other members of that team to provide the best possible care and outcomes for their patients. That may mean referral, delegation or handover to the member of the team who is best placed to manage a patient’s care.

Dental practitioners must only perform treatment for which they have been educated and trained and in which they are competent. The Board expects all dental practitioners to practise within their own scope of practice of their dental practitioner division and the definition of dentistry. The definition of dentistry can be found in the new Scope of practice guidelines.

The division a dental practitioner is registered in and the definition of dentistry describes the range of practice that a practitioner can carry out. Dentists may practice any activities within the definition of dentistry. However, the other divisions (dental hygienists, dental prosthetists, dental therapists, oral health therapists) have a narrower range of practice. 

An individual’s scope of practice depends not only on their division but also on education, training and competence. A practitioner’s own scope of practice may vary from other practitioner’s in the same division. It may be more limited than the division’s overall scope. To make sure that a practitioner is working within their scope of practice, they must only perform dental treatments that they have been educated and trained in, and that they are competent in.

The Board’s new guidelines provide further advice and guidance on the scope of practice for each of the divisions of the Register of Dental Practitioners.

The Board’s Code of conduct sets the standards for the professional conduct of all dental practitioners. The Board held the view that there was a need for the Scope of practice registration standard to reflect the contemporary status and regulatory requirements of the profession. This in no way diminishes the responsibility for all members of the dental team to provide the best possible care and outcomes for their patients. The revised standard highlights that each member of the team has a role to play and they are each responsible for the care provided and decisions they make.

Yes. A dental practitioner may prefer to have formal arrangements in place with other members of the dental team to be clear on how they will manage and care for patients. Workplace arrangements may also describe the expected scope of dental practitioners in these settings, which may vary from workplace to workplace. 

While the Board is removing the regulatory requirement for a structured professional relationship, all practitioners are expected to continue to have professional relationships within the healthcare team. By referral, delegation and handover of care of a patient to another practitioner for assessment and management, in accordance with the principles of the Code of conduct, a professional relationship is established. Professional relationships underpin good patient care.

Members of the dental team are unlikely to see much change at all. The Board will not be requiring more of dental practitioners than it does currently. The Board is simply removing the regulatory obligation to have a structured professional relationship. The professional working relationship between a dentist, other members of the dental and healthcare team and dental specialists will not need to change.

A dental practitioner cannot move from one division to another through continuing professional development (CPD). However, divisions set the broadest limits of scope of practice and within that division of registration, an individual’s scope of practice may differ from others in the same division of registration. So, an individual’s scope of practice could change through CPD, but not beyond their division. It will depend on their education, training and competence and this applies to all divisions of the Register of Dental Practitioners . 

CPD is important to maintain and improve a practitioner’s skills and experience and to broaden their scope of practice within the division they are registered. 

A practitioner can broaden their practice within their division on the register. 

CPD cannot change their scope into that of another division. Dental hygienists, dental prosthetists, dental therapists and oral health therapists cannot become dentists by completing CPD courses.

Practitioners need to:

  • keep their knowledge and skills up to date
  • work within their scope of practice, and 
  • evolve their practice within their division on the register.

CPD, such as a course about a new technique or procedure, will help maintain, improve and broaden a practitioner’s expertise, experience and competence and develop the personal and professional qualities needed throughout an individual’s career. 

The Board expects practitioners to choose CPD based on their division’s scope of practice and understand its limits. 

The Board is doing work around strengthening continuing professional development (CPD) which includes developing tools for practitioners to reflect on their knowledge and skills and how they may plan their CPD to ensure they are contemporary, and evidence based in their practice. 

The Board has developed the reflective practice tool to support and help dental practitioners to reflect on their own knowledge, skills and abilities. The tool also supports dental practitioners to engage in team-based discussions about competent practice for good patient care and can be used by practitioners to help plan their CPD .

 
 
 
Page reviewed 13/05/2020