Dental Board of Australia - March 2021
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March 2021

Issue 22 - March 2021

Chair’s message

Murray Thomas Welcome to the Dental Board of Australia’s (the Board) first newsletter for 2021 which includes updates on important topics such as COVID-19 vaccinations, regulations about the supply of teeth whitening products and Ahpra’s new framework for dealing with vexatious notifications.

A review of the Guidelines on infection control is a flagship project for the Board this year. While the review is due, it is also timely given our new ‘COVID-19 normal’ and we will be asking for your views later in the year.

The Board thanks all dental practitioners for their continued efforts in providing safe dental care in what is already looking like another busy year, full of new and different challenges.

One problem with the focus on speculation is that it tends to promote the growth of the great intellectual cancer of our times: conspiracy theories. Gary Weiss

Dr Murray Thomas
Chair, Dental Board of Australia

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Board news

Recruitment drive for National Board and committee positions

Two big recruitment drives in the past month have invited applications for positions on both the Board and its decision-making national committees. Established to review, assess and make decisions on notification matters (complaints) and applications for registration, the national committees are the:

  • Immediate Action Committee
  • Notification Committee Assessment
  • Notification and Compliance Committee
  • Registration and Compliance Committee.

Many thanks to those who have applied. Successful applicants will make a valuable contribution to the work of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (the National Scheme) and to the dental profession.

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Board jointly hosts roundtable

The Board recently hosted the first in a series of roundtables with the profession and other regulators. Last month’s roundtable was held with the Australian Dental Association and the Dental Council of New South Wales.

The roundtable brought together co-regulators for the dental profession and the largest professional association of the profession’s five divisions to discuss how we could collectively clarify our roles to benefit practitioners.1

All three entities agreed that the role of the Board, of other regulators and of professional associations is not clearly understood. This was evident during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic last year when dental practitioners sought guidance from the Board about their practice under government-imposed restrictions designed to minimise the risk of transmission of infection.

It was agreed that clear understanding by dental practitioners about each entity’s responsibilities would better support strategic objectives being achieved in the regulation and support of the profession. The roundtable facilitated a respectful and open sharing of information and perspectives that resulted in agreement on the boundaries, interdependencies and overlaps in roles and responsibilities across the stakeholder environment.

‘As Board Chair, I want to acknowledge the collaborative spirit and enthusiasm of all participants at the roundtable which helped to make it a success,’ Dr Murray Thomas said. ‘At the end of the day, we all want the same thing and that’s supporting the profession to ensure the public has access to safe dental care.’

Opportunities to help provide greater clarity, such as collaborative work and use of consistent messages, were among several identified. One outcome of the roundtable was agreement to the development of a graphic resource to help explain the stakeholder environment to dental practitioners and students, and the public.

1. Co-regulation exists in NSW where the Dental Council of New South Wales manages complaints about dental practitioners and also in Queensland where more serious complaints about registered health practitioners are managed by the Queensland Health Ombudsman (OHO).

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Teeth whitening products fact sheet under review

The Board is reviewing information in its current Fact sheet: The use of teeth whitening products by dental practitioners.

The fact sheet explains the roles of various regulators, including the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in regulating teeth whitening products and what the Board expects of dental practitioners when using teeth whitening products in their practice.

It also highlights the importance of adhering to relevant state and territory drugs and poisons legislation and regulations when using teeth whitening products.

The updated fact sheet will be available before the middle of the year.

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Podcast focuses on future of dental care in a pandemic

A recent Taking care podcast episode features two dental practitioners reflecting on their experiences adapting to a global health emergency.

Dr Rob Mayne, an orthodontist in private practice based in Victoria, and Ms Neda Nikolovski, a senior prosthetist working for Queensland Health, reflect on their response to the ‘new normal’ and what the future of dental care will look like as we learn to live with COVID-19.

Asking questions to screen patients, including those who have recently returned from overseas, and implementing measures such as plastic barrier screens at dental practices’ customer service points, are going to be important factors in keeping everyone safe.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) releases a new Taking care episode every fortnight, discussing current topics and the latest issues affecting safe healthcare in Australia. The latest episode is a conversation with the Victorian and Queensland Chief Health Officers and how the pandemic affected their professional and personal lives. More about that podcast is in this newsletter.

You can access all Taking care episodes on Spotify, Apple podcasts or on Ahpra’s website.

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Support is just a phone call away

Support for dental practitioners who need someone to talk to is just a quick phone call or click away.

Dental Practitioner Support is a national 24/7 health and wellbeing support service for all dental practitioners. Anyone using it does not have to give their name and can seek support anonymously.

An experienced team can provide callers with confidential advice and referral on a wide range of issues, including mental health and physical health and wellbeing.

Access Dental Practitioner Support:

More information about the service, including how it is funded and the service provider, is on the Board’s website.

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Registered practitioners and students: What you need to know about COVID-19 vaccination

The National Boards and Ahpra have published a joint statement to help registered health practitioners and students understand what’s expected of them in giving, receiving and advising on and sharing information about COVID-19 vaccination.

Key points

Registered health practitioners have led the remarkable public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia, and we commend them for this sustained public health response. As the national vaccination program gets underway, registered health practitioners and students remain critical to this success by:

  • being vaccinated against COVID-19 unless medically contraindicated
  • being appropriately qualified and trained to administer COVID-19 vaccines if authorised, and
  • providing accurate information and advice about COVID-19 vaccination including in social media and advertising.

The statement should be read in conjunction with the standards, codes, guidelines, position statements and other guidance. The Code of conduct explains the public health obligations of registered health practitioners, including participating in efforts to promote the health of the community and meeting obligations on disease prevention.

There is no place for anti-vaccination messages in professional health practice, and any promotion of anti-vaccination claims, including on social media and in advertising, may result in regulatory action. See the Guidelines for advertising a regulated health service for further advice.

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Registration renewal wrap-up: CPD, ROP and impairment declarations

Another successful renewal of registration period has passed, marking 10 years of annual renewal under the National Scheme. Online renewal is the easiest way to renew and since 2011 the number of practitioners who renew online has risen from 82 per cent to 97 per cent. Thanks to everyone who renewed their application on time, almost 23,000 dental practitioners did so, and especially to those of you who got in early. Responding to the early email reminders to renew ensures plenty of time for your application to be assessed and for you to be contacted if follow-up is needed.

CPD and ROP requirements during COVID-19

The Board understands that some practitioners had trouble meeting the continuing professional development (CPD) and recency of practice (ROP) requirements in 2020 because of the national COVID-19 emergency. If you declared in your renewal that you didn’t meet the CPD and/or ROP requirements because of COVID-19, there is no further action you need to take.

Return to normal for CPD

The Board is aware that there are many CPD activities that are COVID-safe options and many CPD programs and providers have now adapted their programs to be COVID-safe.

In 2021 the Board expects dental practitioners to meet the requirements set out in the Board’s CPD registration standard. The Guidelines on continuing professional development, together with other resources on the Board’s website, provide information on how to meet the standard. 

The Board has not specified any mandatory CPD activities and expects you to engage in a range of activities that are within your scope of practice and are in line with the objectives of CPD and your own learning needs. Activities should be completed in a COVID-safe environment.

Some examples of the types of CPD activities include:

  • online learning and internet research
  • written reflections on experience in day-to-day clinical practice
  • reading books, publications and journals relevant to your practice
  • quality assurance activities, such as accreditation, clinical audits or review of records, and
  • online professional or interprofessional interactions such as meetings, case reviews and clinical forums.

Impairment – when to declare

When renewing their registration, some practitioners are making declarations about impairments that we don’t need to know about. It’s only impairments that may detrimentally affect your ability to practise that you must declare.

Impairment means any physical or mental impairment, disability, condition or disorder (including substance abuse or dependence), that detrimentally affects or is likely to detrimentally affect your ability to safely practise the profession.

You don’t need to include such things as wearing glasses or temporary injuries like a sprained wrist or ankle. If you’re unsure about whether your impairment should be declared, do let us know when you renew.

If you do have an impairment that either detrimentally affects or you think is likely to detrimentally affect your ability to practise, you must tell us about it and about what you’re doing to manage it. You should provide documents outlining your current diagnosis and/or treatment plan and a statement from your treating health practitioner confirming your current fitness to practise.

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Latest workforce data released

Registration data for the period 1 October to 31 December 2020 is now available. It shows that at this date, there were 24,994 registered dental practitioners in Australia. Of these:

  • 22,172 had general registration
  • 1,746 had general and specialist registration
  • 53 had specialist registration, 56 had limited registration and
  • 964 had non-practising registration.

For more data, including registrant numbers by division of dental practice, age, gender and principal place of practice, visit our Statistics page

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Regulation at work

Latest court and tribunal cases

We regularly publish court and tribunal summaries for their educational value for the profession. Links to past and recent cases can be found on the News page on the Board’s website. Here are recent cases.

Tribunal disqualifies a former dentist from applying for registration for five years

A former dentist convicted of fraud has been reprimanded by a tribunal and disqualified from applying for registration for five years. Read more.

Dentist reprimanded for practising outside scope of practice

A tribunal has reprimanded a dentist who sedated a patient for an extended length of time and practised outside of his scope of practice. Read more.

Dentist reprimanded after breaching professional boundaries with a patient

A Western Australian dentist has been reprimanded by a tribunal and had conditions imposed on her registration after she admitted engaging in professional misconduct. Read more.

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Students and graduates

Information for students and graduates

Information for students and graduates is published on the Board’s website and includes videos for individuals at the start and end of their studies.

There are no fees for registration as a student and an application is not needed as your education provider advises us of your enrolment to study dental practice.

The Student registration and graduates webpage has basic information about dental practitioner regulation and there’s a vodcast explaining your obligations as a registered dental student.

When you’re close to graduating, read the information about how to apply for registration and watch the video which explains your ongoing obligations once you’re registered.

We are writing to all first-year students soon, so look out for an email from the Board welcoming you on the start of your journey to becoming a registered dental practitioner.

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National Scheme news

Consultation on revised regulatory principles: have your say

The National Boards and Ahpra are seeking feedback on revised regulatory principles for the National Scheme.

The regulatory principles encourage a responsive, risk-based approach to regulation across all professions within the National Scheme. They also acknowledge the importance of community confidence and working with the professions to achieve good outcomes.

The draft revised regulatory principles reflect two recent policy directions issued by the COAG Health Council which provide a clear mandate to the National Boards and Ahpra to prioritise public protection in the work of the National Scheme.

We want the public to have trust and confidence in regulated health practitioners and to know that their safety is at the heart of everything we do in the National Scheme. The revised principles reinforce that public protection is the paramount objective.

The consultation is open until 18 May 2021. Feedback is invited from practitioners, stakeholders and the community.

Find out more about how to make a submission on the Consultations page on the Ahpra website.

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Ahpra rolls out cultural safety training for staff and boards

A key objective of the National Scheme’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Cultural Safety Strategy 2020-2025 is to embed cultural safety in the National Scheme and the health system. A new, online and face-to-face education and training program for all Ahpra staff, board and committee members is rolling out state by state, starting in our Tasmanian office in Hobart.

The Moong moong-gak Cultural Safety Training Program is designed to provide members of the National Scheme with the knowledge, skills and abilities to develop and apply culturally safe work practices as these relate to their role as part of the National Scheme.

The program gives participants an opportunity to hear and learn from the perspectives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and to reflect on their own behaviours, and their conscious and unconscious beliefs. Upon completion of the program, participants will be better prepared to engage in culturally safe practices, communication and behaviour, in order to contribute to more effective service delivery and improved health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

The cultural safety training will contribute to Ahpra employees’, Board members’ and practitioners’ ongoing critical reflection on their knowledge, skills, attitudes, practising behaviours and power differentials in providing safe, accessible and responsive healthcare free of racism.

We want all our people to embrace the training with an open mind and the ability to learn and unlearn!

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Ahpra’s new framework for dealing with vexatious notifications

What is known about vexatious complaints?

In 2017 Ahpra commissioned independent research that took the first international look at vexatious complaints. The report, Reducing, identifying and managing vexatious complaints, found that vexatious complaints account for less than one per cent of notifications received, and that there is greater risk of people not reporting concerns than of people making truly vexatious complaints.

The report also noted that being on the receiving end of any notification is a distressing experience for any health practitioner. Regulators need to have good processes for dealing with unfounded complaints quickly and fairly.

Ahpra’s vexatious complaints framework

Following recommendations made in the report, Ahpra developed A framework for identifying and dealing with vexatious notifications for staff and regulatory decision-makers. This will help us identify and manage potentially vexatious notifications. The framework outlines:

  • the principles and features, significant impacts and potential indicators of vexatious notifications
  • how to identify vexatious notifications, and
  • what to do where there is a concern that a notification is vexatious.

We understand that practitioners who feel that they may be the subject of a vexatious notification are more likely to experience stress and anxiety. Our staff are equipped to identify and support these practitioners and to implement management strategies set out in our framework when a concern about vexatiousness is raised with us.

Need more help or information?

Our staff are here to help you before, during or after the notifications process. We encourage you to visit our General support services page where you can find the contact details for additional support services, including the Dental Practitioner Support program. You can also listen to Episode 1: Vexatious notifications, Taking care, Ahpra’s podcast and visit our Concerns about practitioners page for more information about notifications and links to the report and framework.

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New accreditation committee to be established

Ahpra will establish a new, independently chaired committee to consider key accreditation issues, in response to a new policy direction from the Health Council (formerly the COAG Health Council).

The new committee will have broad stakeholder membership to give independent and expert advice on accreditation reform issues to Ahpra’s Agency Management Committee. The new committee will replace Ahpra’s Accreditation Advisory Committee set up in 2020.

The Independent Review of Accreditation Systems (ASR) Final Report, Australia’s health workforce: strengthening the education foundation, recommended that Health Ministers issue the policy direction.

Ahpra and the National Boards welcomed the policy direction, which requires Ahpra, the National Boards and accreditation authorities to consider the new committee’s advice when exercising their functions under the National Law.

Under the policy direction, Ahpra, National Boards and accreditation authorities must document the outcome of their consideration of the new committee’s advice in meeting minutes, communiqués or other relevant formats.

Ahpra and National Boards will continue to work collaboratively with accreditation authorities through the Accreditation Liaison Group and the Health Professions Accreditation Collaborative Forum.

The policy direction can be viewed on the Ahpra website.

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Podcast: Chief Health Officers Brett Sutton and Jeannette Young in the spotlight

Ahpra’s Taking care podcast series has a new episode. Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Adjunct Professor Brett Sutton, and Queensland’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young, speak openly about their experience of leading during a pandemic, how they coped, and the impact on them and their families.

Brett Sutton speaks about the heavy burden of decision-making with such far-reaching consequences and the importance of his own family and other support mechanisms he relied on to handle the huge pressures. Jeannette Young discusses the fact that there was no rule book, the importance of her husband’s early retirement to support her and how she managed death threats.

Despite the intensity and seriousness of their work, both could see the lighter side of their unexpected celebrity status, a consequence of the unavoidable media spotlight.

Ahpra releases a new Taking care episode fortnightly, discussing current topics and the latest issues affecting safe healthcare in Australia. You can also listen and subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and by searching ‘Taking care’ in your podcast player.

Victorian CHO Prof Brett Sutton


Dr Jeanette Young, CHO Qld

L to R: Adj. Prof. Brett Sutton, Dr Jeannette Young

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Keep in touch with the Board

As always, we encourage you to regularly check the Dental Board website for information and updates relating to the dental profession.

  • Visit our website for information on the National Scheme and the mandatory registration standards, codes, guidelines, policies and fact sheets. Board communiqués and consultation papers are published on the site under News.
  • Lodge an online enquiry form.
  • For registration enquiries call 1300 419 495 (from within Australia) or +61 3 9285 3010 (for overseas callers).
  • Address mail correspondence to: Executive Officer, Dental Board of Australia, GPO Box 9958, Melbourne VIC 3001.

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Page reviewed 30/11/2023