Dental Board of Australia - March 2022

March 2022

Issue 25 – March 2022


Chair’s message

Murray Thomas

To start the newsletter and pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Elders, part, present and emerging, the Board acknowledges the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples on this land and commits to building a brighter future together.

The start of the year has seen a great deal of hardship and uncertainty, both at home and across the globe, with the continued challenges of COVID-19, devastating weather events in Queensland and New South Wales and the current situation in Ukraine. On behalf of the Board I acknowledge and extend my thoughts to all those affected. Remember, the Dental Practitioner Support service is available 24/7, either online or by calling 1800 377 700.

I am pleased to announce the outcome of the Board’s review of its Guidelines on infection control, to move towards supportive resources and tools for practitioners and away from formal regulatory guidelines. Thank you to all practitioners who participated in the consultation process and participated in user testing to help the Board refine its resources.

On behalf of the Board, thank you all for your ongoing commitment to professionalism and providing safe dental care in an ever-changing and unpredictable world.

'Traveller, there are no paths. Paths are made by walking'– Antonio Machado, Border of a dream: selected poems

Dr Murray Thomas
Chair, Dental Board of Australia

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Board news

Supervised practice framework now in effect

The Supervised practice framework (the framework), developed by the Dental Board of Australia along with 12 other National Boards and Ahpra, is in effect.

The framework outlines the National Boards’ expectations and supports supervisees, supervisors and employers to understand what is necessary to effectively carry out supervised practice. The framework also includes the principles that underpin supervised practice and the levels of supervised practice.

To support supervisees, supervisors and employers to understand and apply the framework, the National Boards and Ahpra have developed a set of frequently asked questions and two key-steps diagrams. The diagrams outline the key steps of supervised practice for registration requirements or suitability and eligibility requirements and for supervised practice following a complaint (notification).

The National Boards have also developed a Fact sheet: Supervised practice – transition arrangements to support the transition arrangements in place for supervises and supervisors who are already carrying out supervised practice or who sent documents to Ahpra or the Board before 1 February 2022 (the date of effect).

The framework and additional information can be found on the Supervised practice page.

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What do students need to know about dental practitioner regulation?

The Board has updated a useful vodcast for dental students. We encourage all students, education providers and new graduates to take a look.

Starting your dental studies? What you need to know explains the obligations of a registered dental student. It includes information about:

  • what the Board does as a regulator
  • what you need to know and do as a registered dental student, both now and before you finish your studies
  • information about the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme.

The vodcast includes information about the English language skills registration standard and when a student might need to let the Board know about impairment or criminal conviction. It also provides information about the Dental Practitioner Support service, a national health and wellbeing support service available 24/7 to dental practitioners and students.

Watch the Starting your dental studies? What you need to know vodcast on the Student registration and graduates page or read the news item on the Board’s news page.

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Review outcome – Guidelines on infection control

The Board is supporting practitioners to practise safely with new resources and tools to replace its Guidelines on infection control.

The new resources, including a fact sheet and self-reflective tool, will be launched on 1 July 2022.

Information that was referenced in the guidelines, as well as other useful material, will now be more accessible in a fact sheet designed to help practitioners understand their obligations and know where to go to find out more. The self-reflective tool prompts practitioners to think about their practice and identify areas for further improvement.

The review outcome is not expected to require any changes to practitioners’ day-to-day practice. While the Board has decided to shift from formal guidelines to supportive resources and educative materials, practitioners are still expected to use professional judgement in their clinical practice and adopt clinical guidelines relevant to their practice.

Read more information about the review in our news item and on the Board’s Past consultations page.

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Dental regulation at work: protecting the public in 2020/21

A profession-specific annual report summary that looks into the work of the Dental Board over the 12 months to 30 June 2021 is published on our Annual report page.

The report draws on data from the Annual report 2020/21 by Ahpra and the National Boards and includes the number of applications for registration, outcomes of practitioner audits and segmentation of the registrant base by gender, age and principal place of practice.

Notifications information includes the number of complaints or concerns received, matters opened and closed during the year, types of complaint, monitoring and compliance and matters involving immediate action.

Insights into the profession include:

Registration

  • 24,984 dental practitioners, up 2.4% from 2019/20
  • 3% of all registered health practitioners
  • 0.5% identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander
  • 53.4% female; 46.6% male

Notifications

  • 1,035 registered dental practitioners Australia-wide had notifications made about them
  • 4.1% of the profession
  • more than half of the notifications (55.4%) were made by a patient, relative or member of the public
  • the most common types of complaints were about clinical care (57.5%), followed by communication (7.9%), behaviour (4.1%) and documentation (3.8%).

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Registration news

Temporary acceptance of additional English language tests effective 21 February 2022

The Dental Board and other National Boards are aware many English language tests have been temporarily disrupted because of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns and applicants for registration may have had difficulty accessing tests.

Acknowledging the exceptional circumstances of COVID-19, National Boards have approved a temporary policy position that means the following English language tests will be accepted for applications open or received from 21 February 2022:

  • the OET computer-based test and the OET@home test for applications received until 21 February 2023, and
  • the TOEFL iBT® Home Edition for applications received until 1 June 2022.

All other requirements as set out in the Dental Board’s English language skills registration standard will still apply, please see the English language skills FAQs for more information. There are no changes to any other requirements in the standards such as minimum test scores.

For more information and links, see the news item.

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Latest workforce data released

Registration data for the period 1 October to 31 December 2021 is now available. It shows that at this date, there were 25,923 registered dental practitioners in Australia, an increase of almost 1,000 practitioners since the last quarterly report. Of these:

  • 23,051 had general registration
  • 1,814 had general and specialist registration
  • 66 had specialist registration
  • 42 had limited registration (postgraduate training, supervised practice, teaching or research), and
  • 944 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

Former dental practitioner reprimanded, disqualified and prohibited for 15 years for professional misconduct

A former dental practitioner convicted and jailed for more than seven years for indecent assault has been reprimanded, disqualified from applying for registration, and prohibited from providing health services for 15 years for professional misconduct.

Following a notification to the Dental Board and a Dental Board and Victoria Police investigation, further complainants came forward and in November 2018, Mr Nashaat Michael was convicted of nine charges of indecent assault. The assaults took place between 1996 and 2015 against nine different complainants (eight patients and one member of staff, a dental nurse). The youngest victim was in her 20s and the oldest was in her 60s. Mr Michael was 38-56 years old when he offended. After being sentenced, he surrendered his registration.

On 10 November 2021, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal found that Mr Michael had behaved in a way that constituted professional misconduct and his actions brought the dental profession into disrepute. His conduct required a severe disciplinary response to ensure protection of the public and to deter others from the same conduct, in the interests of maintaining professional standards and public confidence in the profession.

Read the news item for more information.

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National Scheme news

What’s the point of protected titles?

Recently, there’s been some debate about protected titles and how they work to protect the public. Ahpra and the National Boards provide the following guidance to help inform the discussion.

What is a protected title?

In Australia, the titles of registered health professions are 'protected' by law. This is important because they can act as a sort of shorthand for patients and consumers. When you see someone who uses a protected title (for example, 'medical practitioner' or ‘dental practitioner’), you can expect that person is appropriately trained and qualified in that profession, registered, and that they are expected to meet safe and professional standards of practice.

The protected titles under the National Law can be accessed on the Ahpra FAQs page.

What are protected specialist titles?

Medicine, dentistry and podiatry also have approved specialist titles for their professions. This means that a practitioner who uses these titles to describe themselves has additional training and qualifications in a specialty field. For example, a medical practitioner who has additional training and qualifications in neurosurgery and meets the requirements for specialist registration can use the protected title ‘specialist neurosurgeon’, or simply refer to themselves as a ‘neurosurgeon’.

What about cosmetic surgery?

Cosmetic surgery is different because the title ‘cosmetic surgeon’ is not a protected title and cosmetic surgery is not a recognised medical speciality. This may be confusing for patients and people may reasonably expect anyone who uses the title ‘surgeon’ to have had additional training and qualifications and hold specialist registration.

Health Ministers are currently consulting on whether ‘surgeon’ should be a protected title under the National Law, and in what specialties it should apply, or if other changes should be made to help the public better understand the qualifications of medical practitioners. For more information on the consultation, visit: https://engage.vic.gov.au/medical-practitioners-use-title-surgeon-under-national-law.

Read the news item for more details on this topic.

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Have your say: consultation opens for cosmetic surgery review

The public consultation for the Independent review of the regulation of health practitioners in cosmetic surgery is now open.

The review, commissioned by Ahpra and the Medical Board of Australia, is being led by former Queensland Health Ombudsman Andrew Brown, supported by an expert panel.

The review is particularly interested in understanding whether there are any barriers to consumers, practitioners or their employees raising concerns about unsafe practice or unsatisfactory outcomes. It is also examining how best Ahpra and the Medical Board of Australia should manage concerns when they are raised, and what information consumers should be given that may influence informed decision-making.

The consultation paper, including consultation questions, is available on the Independent review page on the Ahpra website. Practitioners can contribute by emailing their submission, marked 'Submission to the independent review on cosmetic surgery,' to CSReview@ahpra.gov.au.

There is a survey for consumers to easily share their experiences.

For further information, including FAQs, see the review website.

The consultation ends on 14 April 2022.

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Latest podcasts: eliminating family violence and improving workplace culture to protect patients

Ahpra’s Taking care podcast series has released new episodes.

Health practitioners’ role in eliminating family violence – a survivor’s story

The first episode of Taking care for 2022 is a powerful and honest conversation about family violence and the role of health practitioners in helping survivors.

Read more about the podcast and follow the link to listen.

Tackling the blame culture to improve patient safety – is it possible?

What is the best approach to support a practitioner’s professional practice to ensure patient safety? How do we regulate when honest errors occur in a workplace environment?

Read more about the podcast and follow the link to listen.

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

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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 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 29/03/2022