Dental Board of Australia - November 2021

November 2021

Issue 24 - November 2021


Chair’s message

Murray Thomas

On behalf of the Dental Board of Australia, thank you all for your patience, hard work and ongoing professionalism during another challenging year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Your responsiveness to the evolving and uncertain situation has meant that the public could safely access urgent and essential dental care.

I would also like to acknowledge dental practitioner students who have had a unique final year. We recognise that your education and training delivery may have been different from what you were expecting for your final year of study. To those who are close to graduating and applying for registration, we look forward to welcoming you to the profession. Congratulations!

It is more important than ever to look after your own health during this challenging and unpredictable time. Dental Practitioner Support is somewhere to turn to. Remember to save the number in your phone – 1800 377 700, not just for yourself, but if a colleague needs it one day.

Registration renewal for dental practitioners is due by 30 November 2021. We encourage you all to reflect on your cultural learning needs as you plan your continuing professional development for the next 12 months.

Wishing you all a safe and happy festive season.

Strength lies in differences, not in similarities – Stephen R. Covey

Dr Murray Thomas
Chair, Dental Board of Australia

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Board news

Scope of practice review: your feedback

The Dental Board of Australia (the Board) would like your feedback on the implementation of the revised Scope of practice registration standard and Guidelines for scope of practice that took effect on 1 July 2020.

Your feedback will help us understand the effect of the changes and if our promotion of the revised document was effective.

The main change to the registration standard and guidelines is to allow dental hygienists, dental therapists and oral health therapists to practise as independent practitioners. The change removed the regulatory requirement that these divisions may only work within a structured professional relationship with a dentist.

Please note that programs to ‘extend scope’ (formerly known as add-on programs) were also removed from the revised Scope of practice registration standard, however this change to the standard reflected the Board’s earlier decision in 2018 – the approval of programs expired on 31 December 2018. 

More information is in our Know your scope hub.

To provide your feedback, please complete the short, confidential and anonymous survey by clicking here. The survey will be open until 15 December 2021.

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Consultation open: helping practitioners with infection prevention and control

The Board wants to make it easier for practitioners to know and understand their professional infection prevention and control obligations to help them practise safely.

As part of this, the Board is reviewing its Guidelines on infection control. This includes consulting on whether to provide information to practitioners in a more accessible and helpful way through the use of other tools and resources, such as a one-stop fact sheet and a self-reflective tool.

  • The fact sheet highlights the regulatory and legal requirements that apply and directs practitioners to a range of helpful resources on infection prevention and control.
  • The proposed self-reflective tool encourages practitioners to reflect on their practice and identify if there is room for improvement, which supports professional practice and helps to protect the public.

The Board’s preference is outlined in the consultation paper and reflects its outcome-based approach to regulating the profession. The proposed shift from guidelines to helpful resources and tools supports dental practitioners to exercise their judgement and behave professionally.

We’d like your feedback

We invite feedback from dental practitioners, members of the public, employers of dental practitioners, education providers and other stakeholders. To read more about the Board’s proposal, review the consultation paper and access the online submissions form, please see the Board’s Consultation page. The consultation closes on 15 November 2021.

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Updated fact sheet on teeth whitening

The Board has released an updated fact sheet on teeth whitening for dental practitioners. Its purpose is to give dental practitioners an overview of the laws and professional obligations that apply when they use teeth-whitening products as part of their practice. The fact sheet provides links to useful information, such as medicines and poisons legislation.

The main change to the fact sheet is that it now confirms that practitioners can provide higher concentration take-home teeth-whitening products to patients, if after applying professional judgement, they determine it is safe to do so. This reflects the withdrawal of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)’s previous product safety bulletin that stated high concentration teeth-whitening products could only be used in-clinic.

The fact sheet was updated in consultation with our stakeholders, including the Therapeutic Goods Administration, state and territory health departments and the ACCC. The fact sheet uses the Board’s new plain English formatting style, which we intend applying to our other fact sheets.

We hope the updated fact sheet clarifies any confusion around practitioners being able to provide teeth-whitening products to patients for use at home, under practitioner instruction.

If you have any feedback about the updated fact sheet and the new format, please let us know by emailing DentalBoardofAustralia@ahpra.gov.au.

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Management of tongue ties by dental practitioners

We would like to remind you of your obligations as registered practitioners under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (the National Law).

A dentist treating tongue-ties must be able to show they have the necessary training, qualifications and competence to be able to do so safely.

The Board describes its requirements of dental practitioners in its registration standards, codes and guidelines published on the Board’s website. These documents do not refer to specific clinical areas of practice as they need to apply to all dental practitioners across a range of clinical settings, to meet the needs of patients.

We expect you to practise within this regulatory framework at all times, including when treating tongue ties, which may involve the use of surgical procedures, such as frenotomies, on infants to treat these conditions.

If you are managing tongue ties, consider that:

  • The Scope of practice registration standard describes the Board’s requirements of all dental practitioners to practise within the scope of their education, training and competence.
  • The associated Guidelines for scope of practice include a broad definition of dentistry. You need to practise within this definition.
  • If you are treating tongue ties you must be able to demonstrate that you have the necessary training, qualifications and competence to be able to do so safely.
  • The Code of conduct describes the Board’s expectations of what constitutes good practice. You have a duty to make the care of patients your first concern, and to practise safely and effectively at all times.
  • Treatment for tongue ties should only be used if it can be justified. You must obtain informed consent, including financial consent, and explain the risks associated with the treatment to the patient, and document this.
  • You need to be particularly aware of the patient’s expectations about treatment for tongue ties. You must communicate effectively with the patient to ensure that you are meeting this standard and that the patient’s expectations are reasonable.
  • Any person, including businesses, advertising the treatment of tongue ties must comply with the requirements of the National Law when advertising a regulated health service.
  • The Board and Ahpra have published information to help dentists better understand their advertising obligations, including further information on advertising therapeutic claims.
  • This information does not replace the Board’s Guidelines for advertising regulated health services, which should be your first point of reference to understanding your obligations. The burden is on you to substantiate any claim you make that your treatments benefit patients.
  • If you do not understand whether the claims you have made can be substantiated based on acceptable evidence, then you need to remove them from your advertising.
  • The ADA has issued a consensus statement on ankyloglossia* which can help guide your practice.

*Anklyglossia or tongue tie can be described as a congenital birth defect whereby there is partial or complete fusion of the tongue to the floor of the mouth or the lingual frenulum may be short, tight and thick.

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Dental Head Start podcast

Dental practitioner podcast image of presentersBoard Chair, Dr Murray Thomas, recently spoke with Dental Head Start for their podcast about the dental practitioner support service and the importance of looking after yourself to look after your patients.

Dental Head Start describes itself as a podcast and blog aimed at helping dental students become great dentists, but that is relevant for all dental practitioners.

Dr Thomas spoke with podcast host David Keir about the Board-funded independent support service for dental practitioners as well as clarifying some misunderstandings about how the Board and Ahpra work and what their goals are.

To access the podcast please see the news item on the Board’s website.

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Alerts

Stress and burnout amongst Australian dental practitioners – research study

The Board has been advised about a research study that is exploring the social, work and mental health effects experienced by dental professionals in Australia, and will examine factors that promote good mental health and risk factors that contribute to poorer mental health.

The research team conducting the study is led by A/Prof Matt Hopcraft (University of Melbourne) in conjunction with Prof Gordon Parker AO (University of New South Wales), Dr Roisin McGrath (University of Melbourne) and Dr Nicole Stormon (University of Queensland).

The dental profession has long been regarded as having high levels of professional stress and burnout, however the mental health of Australian dentists has been studied sporadically over the past few decades.

This project has human research ethics approval from The University of Melbourne (Project ID 21897).

Taking part in the study

Dental practitioners are invited to participate via an online questionnaire; this should take no more than 15-20 minutes. Participation is voluntary and is available through the following link: www.surveymonkey.com/r/dental_burnout.

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Dental Practitioner Support service

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.

The service offers health and wellbeing support to all dental practitioners, including dentists, dental prosthetists, oral health therapists, dental hygienists and dental therapists. It is also available to dental students, educators, employers, Australian Dental Council exam candidates and concerned family members and friends.

While funded by the Board, the service is run independently by Turning Point, a leading addiction treatment, research and education organisation based in Victoria. This means practitioners can have complete confidence in reaching out for confidential support.

Access Dental Practitioner Support:

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Registration

Online renewal for dental practitioners is open

Dental practitioners have until 30 November 2021 to renew their general or non-practising registration.

Look out for an email from Ahpra providing access to online renewal; the quickest and easiest way to renew.

Ready to renew?

Read the renewal FAQs on the Ahpra website for helpful tips and more information on what you need to do to renew.

We cover common questions on professional indemnity insurance, recency of practice, continuing professional development, and what to do if you have a change in your criminal history or health impairments you need to tell us about.

What’s different this year?

Embedding cultural safety in the ways we work

The National Registration and Accreditation Scheme’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Cultural Safety Strategy aims to make patient safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples the norm. We strive to embed cultural safety in the ways we work within the National Scheme too.

From 2021, you’ll be asked if you identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander when you renew your registration. This will help us continue to develop culturally safe ways of working.

Renewal is now online only with changes to payment options

We’ve moved to online only for general, specialist and non-practising registration renewal. Over 99 per cent of health practitioners already renew online, it’s the quickest and easiest way to renew.

Renewal fees can be paid by credit/debit card. If you do not have a credit/debit card you can purchase a pre-paid debit card from various retail outlets for a nominal fee. BPay is no longer available for any profession.

You can find information on fees for 2021-22 in our news item, which contains links to the full fee schedule and other helpful resources, including a registration and renewal fee payment plan for practitioners experiencing financial hardship as a result of pandemic lockdowns.

Advertising declaration and audit

Proactive advertising audits have now started. If you are renewing your general registration, you’ll be asked to declare that, if you are advertising health services, your advertising complies with National Law advertising requirements.

This is part of a risk-based approach to enforcing the National Law’s advertising requirements and compliance by registered health practitioners who advertise their services. This approach includes auditing health practitioners to check advertising compliance.

Continuing to support health practitioners during COVID-19

What if I can’t meet the CPD requirements because of COVID-19?
The Board expects you to make reasonable efforts to complete your required CPD. However, we understand that some practitioners may have had trouble fully meeting CPD, particularly any face to face requirements, due to the impacts of COVID-19. Continuing professional development is important as it helps maintain competence and supports safe and effective care.

The Board will not take action if you have not been able to complete CPD for the 2020–21 registration period due to the exceptional circumstances of COVID-19 and you declare on your renewal application that you have not met the Continuing professional development registration standard.

It’s important that you answer all questions honestly and accurately when completing your registration renewal and declare that you have not met the CPD requirements if that is the case. If you declare that you did not meet the CPD registration standard the Board may request evidence in the future of what you have done to address any identified gaps in your learning needs such as any interactive or face to face CPD requirements.

Given the importance of CPD and the increasing availability of flexible and COVID-safe CPD options, you will be expected to fully meet CPD requirements in future and when renewing in 2022. There are many flexible-delivery and COVID-safe options for CPD and interactive CPD can be completed virtually. COVID-related learning activities can be counted towards CPD.

Endorsement for conscious sedation

Practitioners who hold an endorsement to practise conscious sedation have a professional obligation to meet CPD requirements under the Endorsement for conscious sedation registration standard. Please check the Board’s news item about Endorsement to practise conscious sedation during COVID-19.

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Thousands more health practitioners able to join the pandemic response sub-register

From 22 September, thousands of extra health practitioners, including dental practitioners, can join the COVID-19 response through a new 2021 temporary sub-register established by Ahpra and the National Boards.

  • Nearly 29,000 practitioners who recently stopped practising are now eligible to practise for up to 12 months.
  • This surge workforce will make more practitioners available to help with the pandemic response if they choose to do so.
  • Practitioners can opt out of the 2021 sub-register at any time and don't need to explain why.

The 2021 pandemic response sub-register was established in response to the changing needs of Australia’s health system due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes 12 regulated health professions who can work to the full scope of their registration.

On the 2021 sub-register are key professions identified by governments in their pandemic response planning. These include dental practitioners, diagnostic radiographers, medical practitioners, midwives, nurses, occupational therapists, optometrists, pharmacists, physiotherapists, podiatrists and psychologists. Eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners are being added to the 2021 sub-register if they choose to opt in.

The extra health practitioners on the 2021 sub-register join 26,000 practitioners who are on the 2020 pandemic response sub-register first established in April 2020. Practitioners on the 2020 sub-register have registration limited to practice in areas supporting the COVID-19 response, such as administering the COVID-19 vaccination or backfilling furloughed staff.

More information

See the news item for more details, and visit the Ahpra website for information about our COVID-19 response, including:

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Latest workforce data released

Registration data for the period 1 April to 30 June 2021 is now available. It shows that at this date, there were 24,984 registered dental practitioners in Australia. Of these:

  • 22,243 had general registration
  • 1,778 had general and specialist registration
  • 59 had specialist registration
  • 47 had limited registration (postgraduate training, supervised practice, teaching or research), and
  • 856 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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Students and graduates

Graduating soon? Be ready to start work – apply now

Once you are registered, you can work as a dental practitioner anywhere in Australia.

Before you can start practising as a dental practitioner you must be registered with the Dental Board of Australia (the Board).

If you're set to complete your course within the next three months, apply for registration now. We'll start assessing your application while we wait for your graduate results. Once you are registered, you can work anywhere in Australia.

What are the dental practitioner registration categories?

There is a range of registration categories under which a dental practitioner can practise in Australia. Different divisions apply to different types of registration. Categories of dental practitioner registration are:

  • dentist
  • dental therapist
  • dental hygienist
  • oral health therapist, or
  • dental prosthetist.

How do I apply?

Create your account using the online services portal and complete your application.

Upload your documents and pay the required fees. Check that you have provided all required documentation to prove you’ve met the registration standards, including certified copies of your photo ID.

Wait for your education provider to provide your graduate results to Ahpra.

Once we’ve received your graduate results from your education provider and we are satisfied that you have met all the requirements for registration, we will finalise your application.

When you are registered, we will publish your name to the Register of practitioners, and you can start working as a dental practitioner!

Get your application right

Check out our graduate video to help you get your application right.

You’ll find helpful advice, tips for avoiding common causes of delay and downloadable information flyers on the Graduate applications page of the Ahpra website.

Photo ID

It's important that you provide correctly certified photo ID documents with your application - the wording is very specific.

‘I certify that this is a true copy of the original and the photograph is a true likeness of the person presenting the document as sighted by me.’

To get it right the first time download the guide Certifying documents and take it with you to the authorised officer.

Who can certify documents?

In addition to JPs, most registered health practitioners, public servants, teachers, lecturers and members of the legal profession can certify photographic ID documents. For the full list of authorised officers see the guide.

Meeting the Board’s registration requirements

When you apply for registration, your application is carefully assessed against the Board’s requirements for registration.

For registration as a dental practitioner, you need to prove that you meet the following standards:

  • criminal history
  • English language skills, and
  • professional indemnity insurance.

You will also need to declare any health impairments that may affect your ability to practise.

We cannot register you until we are satisfied that you meet the requirements for registration and are suitably trained and qualified.

You can also check out the Board’s video for graduating students which tells you what you need to know to register as a dental practitioner for the first time.

How long does it take to assess my application?

We can’t finalise your application until we receive your graduate results from your education provider.

If you’ve submitted everything you need to prove you’ve met the requirements for registration, we aim to finalise your application within two weeks of receiving your graduate results.

For more information

For registration enquiries or difficulties with the online application form: contact us by making a web enquiry or by calling 1300 419 495 (within Australia).

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National Scheme news

Advance copy of supervised practice framework published

Twelve National Boards and Ahpra have published an advance copy of the revised Supervised practice framework (the framework).

The Supervised practice framework has been revised to reflect a responsive and risk-based approach to supervised practice across the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (the National Scheme).

When does the framework come into effect?

The framework comes into effect on 1 February 2022. An advance copy has been published to allow time for supervisees, supervisors, employers and others to familiarise themselves with the revised framework.

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Changes to notification management are coming to Queensland

Queensland will introduce joint consideration of all notifications about health practitioners between Ahpra, the National Boards and the Office of the Health Ombudsman (OHO) in December 2021.

The changes aim to speed up the initial assessment of notifications, which will benefit registered health practitioners and notifiers.

All notifications about dental practitioners in Queensland will continue to be received by the OHO. Currently, the OHO deals with the most serious matters it receives, and refers most of the remaining notifications to Ahpra and the Dental Board of Australia.

From December, all notifications received by the OHO about dental practitioners will be shared with Ahpra and the Dental Board when they are received. Ahpra and the OHO will review each notification at the same time and agree on which agency should manage the matter. All notifications that raise a concern about a dental practitioner’s performance will be reviewed by a dental practitioner clinical advisor.

The changes provide greater opportunity for earlier closure of concerns that do not need a regulatory response.

Ahpra CEO, Mr Martin Fletcher, said that the joint consideration approach would build on the strong relationship between the OHO, Ahpra and National Boards in managing notifications to support access to safe, professional practitioners for Queensland and Australia more broadly.

‘We’re looking forward to working even more closely with the OHO to ensure that notifications about health practitioners are assessed as quickly and consistently as possible,’ Mr Fletcher said.
‘This means a better experience both for health practitioners and notifiers.’

Relevant changes to Queensland legislation take effect on 6 December 2021 and all notifications from this date will be subject to joint consideration. For more information on how notifications are managed, see Ahpra's website.

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Joint statement on COVID-19 vaccines to help patients sort fact from fiction

A joint statement has been released by Ahpra and the National Boards, the Health Care Complaints Commission, the Office of the Health Ombudsman and the Therapeutic Goods Administration. We published the statement for patients and health consumers, to support informed decision-making.

Its message is: You need reliable, evidence-based information to make good choices about your healthcare. In a climate thick with commentary about COVID-19 and vaccines, how do you sort fact from fiction?

The statement covers four main points:

  • Get advice from the experts (with a link to the national online register of practitioners).
  • Be safe in the knowledge that registered health practitioners must meet national standards (with links to the National Boards’ websites).
  • Don’t get swayed by opinions.
  • Reach out to a trusted person, like your GP.

It also lists and links to reliable sources of information on COVID-19 and vaccinations in Australia to help people make sure they have the best, most accurate and evidence-based information for their specific needs when making decisions about their own or their loved ones’ health.

The statement has been translated into Arabic, Farsi, Greek, Simplified Chinese and Vietnamese. These versions are available on Ahpra’s Translations page.

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Updated regulatory principles – supporting trust and confidence in regulated health professions

We’ve updated our regulatory principles to foster a culturally safe, responsive and risk-based approach to regulation.

The regulatory principles guide the National Boards and Ahpra when making regulatory decisions.

The changes reflect community expectations and new policy directions from the Health Council, as well as feedback from public consultation. They recognise that community confidence in the regulation of health practitioners is key to a safe and effective health system.

Overall, the changes:

  • reinforce that public protection is the paramount objective of the National Scheme
  • recognise the role of the National Boards and Ahpra in developing a culturally safe and respectful health workforce
  • consider the risks to the public including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and members of the community who are vulnerable to harm
  • embed fairness and transparency, and
  • highlight the importance of maintaining community confidence in regulated health professions and working with consumer bodies to achieve this.

More information about the review of the regulatory principles is available on Ahpra’s website.

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New independent accreditation committee established

A new independent accreditation committee has been established by Ahpra in line with Health Ministers’ policy direction issued earlier this year and as a key element of Health Ministers’ response to the Independent review of accreditation systems final report. Accreditation provides a framework for assuring that individuals seeking registration are suitably trained, qualified and competent to practise as health practitioners in Australia.

The broad stakeholder membership of the committee will bring a wide range of perspectives to the new committee’s work, recognising the importance of professional and accreditation expertise as well as community, employer and education provider involvement. Members have been appointed for a three-year term and committee’s terms of reference have been published on the Ahpra website.

Read more in the news item.

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Research and evaluation framework to foster strong research culture

A new Research and evaluation framework guides how National Boards and Ahpra prioritise, carry out, manage and assess research and evaluation. The framework covers all National Scheme research and evaluation and applies to work by Ahpra staff and external researchers and consultants. It includes information on research and evaluation principles, priorities, governance and practice, and engagement and communication.

The framework aims to further embed an ethical, transparent and accountable best-practice research and evaluation culture within the National Scheme. The National Scheme aims to contribute to world-class regulatory research to improve regulation and contribute to contemporary, best-practice processes and standards.

View the framework on the Ahpra website.

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You may notice that the public register looks a little different

Ahpra has launched a new-look public register with enhanced search capabilities. The aim of the enhancements is to make the register easier to use, especially for those in our communities who may have barriers to access. Some of the changes you’ll see include:

  • increased prominence of the register on the Ahpra homepage so it’s easier to find
  • simplified language with pop-up information boxes, and
  • improved search functionality, including:
  • predictive text
  • phonetic searching capability
  • search by location, and
  • refined search filters (including being able to search by the 15 most common community languages).

To help users navigate the new-look register, we’ve developed a ‘how to search’ video which is available on our Help and tips page.

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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 11/11/2021