Australian dental associations raise concern over over-supply

SYDNEY, Australia: The Australian Dental Association and the Australian Dental Students Association have launched a campaign to raise awareness about the oversupply of dentists and dental practitioners. Both organisations have called on the Australian government to act on dental student numbers.

Audrey Irish, President of the Australian Dental Students Association, said: “It takes at least five years of study to become a dentist and course costs can range between A$50,000 and A$250,000. Unless we balance student numbers with demand, we are setting new graduates up for unemployment.”

“It is inappropriate and economically irresponsible of the government to invest so much money in the education of dentists, only to have them take employment in less skilled roles,” Dr Karin Alexander, Federal President of the Australian Dental Association, added.

According to the association, the number of overseas-qualified dentists entering Australia each year is more than the output of two dental schools. Dentists from the UK and Ireland, for example, receive automatic recognition of their qualifications in Australia.

The associations also highlighted that the claim that oversupply will address distribution issues in the country is naïve because the population is too small in some rural areas with an undersupply of dentists to sustain a practice on an ongoing basis.

According to the latest figures published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, almost 80 per cent of all employed dentists work in major cities and only 0.9 per cent are settled in remote areas. According to a study published last year in the Rural and Remote Health journal, the practice-to-population ratio ranges from 1:52 in remote areas to 1:20,100 in large cities.