Dental Board of Australia - 2019/20 annual summary
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2019/20 annual summary

Snapshot of the profession

  • 24,406 dental practitioners
    • Up 2.8% from 2018/19
    • 3.0% of all registered health practitioners
  • 0.5% identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander
  • 52.6% female; 47.4% male


Age: 2.3% < 25, 28.9% 25-34, 27.0% 35-44, 18.2% 45-54, 15.8% 55-64, 6.7% 65-74, 1.1% > 75

Audit outcomes

Audit: 98.9% fully compliant, 0.0% compliant (through education), 0.7% non-compliant, 0.4% no audit action required


 Divisions: 74.6% dentists, 8.6% oral health therapists, 6.0% dental hygienists, 5.2% dental prosthetists, 3.4% dental therapists, 2.2% registered in multiple divisions

Regulating the profession


  • 784 notifications lodged with Ahpra
    • 1,010 registered dental practitioners Australia-wide, including HPCA and OHO data, had notifications made about them
    • 4.1% of the profession

Sources of notifications

Sources of notifications: 49.4% patient, relative or member of the public, 31.9% HCE, 7.7% other practitioner, 1.8% employer, 1.5% Board’s own motion, 7.8% other

  • 36 immediate actions taken
  • 32 mandatory notifications received
    • 21 were about professional standards

Most common types of complaint

Most common types of complaint: 62.0% clinical care, 3.6% breach of non-offence provision National Law, 3.6% health impairment, 3.3% communication, 2.9% behaviour, 24.6% other

Notifications closed

Notifications closed: 730 notifications closed (9.5% conditions imposed on registration or an undertaking accepted, 4.7% received a caution or reprimand, 0.5% registration suspended or cancelled, 28.9% referred to another body or, retained by a health complaints entity, 56.4% no further action)


  • 165 practitioners monitored for health, performance and/or conduct during the year
  • 137 cases being monitored at 30 June:
    • 7 for conduct
    • 15 for health reasons
    • 71 for performance
    • 7 for prohibited practitioner/student
    • 37 for suitability/eligibility for registration

Criminal offence complaints

  • 80 criminal offence complaints made
    • 30 about title protection
    • 8 about practice protection
    • 42 about advertising breaches
  • 68 were closed

Referrals to an adjudication body

  • 4 matters decided by a tribunal
  • 3 matters decided by a panel
  • 3 appeals

A report from the Chair

Protecting the public from harm is paramount for the Dental Board of Australia in its role of regulating the dental profession. We support practitioners to remain fit to practise by:

  • setting and enforcing national standards
  • taking initiatives to maintain and enhance practitioners’ professional skills and knowledge.

This summary highlights some of the Board’s initiatives in 2019/20.

Highlights this year

The year has seen the Board review several standards and guidelines and the development of a flagship initiative – a national health and wellbeing support service. 

Dental Practitioner Support

Dental Practitioner Support, which is starting on 6 July 2020, is a national service and the first 24/7 free and confidential telephone and online service for all dental practitioners and students.

Regulatory response to COVID-19

A significant focus in the first part of 2020 was our response to the COVID-19 pandemic and support for practitioners to continue to comply with their regulatory obligations in a rapidly changing environment. 

The Board released several COVID-19 updates to practitioners by email, explaining the evolving advice about the restrictions to dental practice issued by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee and how Ahpra and the Board would respond to the challenges of COVID-19.

It also developed and published a series of FAQs on matters such as registration, professional indemnity insurance, financial hardship and registration fees, continuing professional development and other issues. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Board has readily adapted to fully remote meetings, working groups and committees since March.

Stakeholder engagement

The COVID-19 Dental Stakeholder Liaison Group was first convened within an environment where COVID-19 was posing extraordinary challenges to the health system. Membership includes representatives from over 10 organisations, including professional associations, other regulators, accreditation authorities, private and public sectors and the education sector. 

Having facilitated greater stakeholder collaboration and communication, the function of the group was expanded as the membership acknowledged the ongoing benefits and opportunities of continuing the forum for engagement around professional and consumer challenges and issues.


On 1 July 2019 a new five-year accreditation agreement came into effect. The Australian Dental Council (ADC) continues as the Board’s accrediting authority. The ADC also carried out a review of the accreditation standards. The new standards will come into effect 1 January 2021. The Board has also worked closely with the ADC to monitor the effects of COVID-19 on approved programs of study.

Standards, guidelines and codes

The revised Scope of practice registration standard, in effect from 1 July 2020, was approved by the Ministerial Council in November 2019. A ‘Know your scope’ online hub launched by the Board in May has information and resources to support dental practitioners’ understanding of their obligations under the revised standard, including:

  • webinar recordings of Q&A sessions and a stakeholder presentation
  • FAQs
  • a reflective practice tool
  • a podcast
  • links to relevant state and territory legislation.

In 2019, the Board carried out a review of the Guidelines for dental records. Following extensive consultation, the Board decided to retire these guidelines as the Code of conduct contains adequate guidance about health record management. A fact sheet and self-reflective tool have been developed and will be published before the guidelines are retired in the second half of 2020. 

Together with four other Boards, the Board consulted on and approved new Guidelines for registered health practitioners and students in relation to blood-borne viruses, which were coming into effect 6 July 2020. The Board’s guidelines are for practitioners and students who perform exposure-prone procedures and for registered health practitioners who are treating registered health practitioners or students living with a blood-borne virus who themselves perform exposure-prone procedures. The Board holds the view that most dental practitioners working in clinical practice will perform exposure-prone procedures.

Dr Murray Thomas (Chair)

Page reviewed 22/11/2021