August 2014 Commonwealth of Australia 2014

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Paediatric dentistry

What is a paediatric dentist?

A paediatric dentist works in the part of dental practice that deals with the prevention and treatment of dental diseases and abnormalities in children. Paediatric dentistry provides preventative and therapeutic oral health care for children from birth through to adolescence and to those with special needs. It includes management of orofacial (relating to the mouth and face) problems related to medical, behavioural, physical or developmental disabilities.28

How are paediatric dentists trained?

To be eligible to gain registration with the DBA as a paediatric dentist, a person must be a qualified dentist, have a minimum of two years general dental practice experience, and complete an approved postgraduate programme of study in paediatric dentistry. There are five approved three-year Doctor of Clinical Dentistry in Paediatric Dentistry programmes in Australia, offered by the University of Adelaide, the University of Melbourne, the University of Queensland, the University of Sydney, and the University of Western Australia.29

What is the assessment process for overseas-trained paediatric dentists?

An overseas-trained paediatric dentist must have their specialist qualification assessed as substantially equivalent to an approved qualification for the specialty. The ADC review and make recommendations about overseas-trained paediatric dentist specialist applications to the DBA.

In addition to having their specialist qualification assessed as substantially equivalent, the DBA’s Specialist Registration Standard requires specialist registration applicants to have completed a minimum of two years general dental practice in addition to meeting all other requirements for general registration as a dentist. The general practice requirement may be achieved by experience outside Australia, subject to assessment and approval by the DBA.30

What issues have stakeholders identified for the paediatric dentist workforce?

In relation workforce supply, distribution was the key issue highlighted for paediatric dentists – in terms of work settings and geography.

For work settings, it was noted there are a small number of paediatric dentists based in public hospitals, with numbers in the private sector growing over the last decade. Anecdotally, it was reported that most new Australian graduates opt to work in private practice settings due to higher remuneration compared with public hospital settings, and most of the current public hospital workforce is comprised of overseas-trained specialists.

In terms of geographic distribution, most paediatric dentists work within capital cities, with few, if any, working in either the private or public sectors in rural and remote communities. Feedback highlighted that full-time specialist dental practices are unlikely to be financially viable in small rural and remote communities, and therefore sufficient government funding is required to entice paediatric dentists currently working in the private sector to provide visiting services to areas of need.

Existing workforce position

The existing workforce position was determined from expert opinion from jurisdictions and the profession. A traffic light approach was used (as described in Appendix D). There was no common assessment for paediatric dentists, with the rating varying by sector and region:

  • In the private sector in metropolitan areas, the paediatric dentist workforce was assessed as green (no current perceived shortage) to white (current perceived excess supply). At the current rate of increase, it is perceived that the supply of paediatric dentists will exceed demand in the near future.

  • In the public sector and rural and remote areas, the paediatric dentist workforce was assessed as orange – some level of expressed demand exceeding available workforce.

Workforce characteristics

Table shows the number of employed registered specialists in paediatric dentistry in 2011 and 2012. Approximately 60 per cent of specialists in paediatric dentistry were female in both years, a higher percentage than other dental specialties.

Table : Employed registered specialists: paediatric dentists, workforce characteristics, 2011 and 2012

Workforce characteristic






% clinician



% female



Average age



% over 55



Average working hours



Full-time equivalent



Source: NHWDS: dental practitioners 2011 and 2012

Table shows the total number of employed dentists (both specialists and general dentists) who reported paedodontics as their principal area of main job, and their selected characteristics in 2011 and 2012.

Table : Employed dentists (including specialists): principal area of main job reported as paedodontics, workforce characteristics, 2011 and 2012

Workforce characteristic






% clinician



% female



Average age



% over 55



Average working hours



Full-time equivalent



Source: NHWDS: dental practitioners 2011 and 2012
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