August 2014 Commonwealth of Australia 2014

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Forensic odontology

What is a forensic odontologist?

Forensic odontologists, or forensic dentists, work in the branch of dentistry that is involved with the examination and evaluation of dental evidence, which may then be presented in the interests of justice. Forensic odontologists are involved in:

  • Identification of unknown human remains

  • Identification of unknown deceased individuals following mass disasters

  • Examination and assessment of bite mark injuries

  • Examination and assessment of facial injuries following assault or trauma

  • Age assessment of both living and deceased persons

  • Examination and assessment of child abuse injuries

  • Civil cases involving malpractice and fraud allegations.42

How are forensic odontologists trained?

There are no currently approved programmes of study to train forensic odontologists in Australia. Specialists wishing to register as forensic odontologists will have their applications evaluated by the DBA on a case-by-case basis.

Non-approved courses in forensic odontology are offered at several universities in Australia. The University of Western Australia offers a Graduate Diploma in Forensic Odontology, of one year duration. The University of Adelaide also offers one-year Graduate Diploma in Forensic Odontology, as well as offering a Bachelor of Science in Dentistry with Honours in Forensic Odontology and higher research degrees in forensic odontology. The University of Melbourne has previous offered a one-year Graduate Diploma in Forensic Odontology, but ceased intake for this programme in 2013.

The Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia offers a five-year Fellowship of the Faculty of Forensic Odontology.43

What is the assessment process for overseas-trained forensic odontologists?

Most overseas-trained dental specialists need to have their specialist qualification assessed as substantially equivalent to an approved qualification for the specialty. However there is no approved accredited qualification for forensic odontology in Australia. Therefore, an overseas-trained forensic odontologist would have their application referred to a committee of the DBA with the requisite expertise and experience to be able to assess the overseas specialist qualification.

In addition, 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.44

What issues have stakeholders identified for the forensic odontologist workforce?

No specific issues were highlighted by stakeholders for the forensic odontologist workforce.

Workforce characteristics

Table shows the number and selected characteristics of employed registered forensic odontologists in 2011 and 2012. In both years, average weekly working hours were lower than other dental specialty workforces.

Table : Employed registered specialists: forensic odontologists, 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 number of employed dentists (both specialist and general dentists) who reported forensic odontology as their principal area of work in 2012 (2011 data is not available because forensic odontology was not included as a principal area of main job option on the 2011 survey).

While in 2012 there were 25 registered specialist forensic odontologists, there were only ten dentists who reported forensic odontology as their principal area of work. This means most forensic odontologists work in other areas of dentistry, and may indicate that there is insufficient demand for forensic odontologists to work on a full-time basis.

Table : Employed dentists (including specialists): principal area of main job reported forensic odontology, workforce characteristics, 2012

Workforce characteristic




% clinician


% female


Average age


% over 55


Average working hours


Full-time equivalent


Source: National Health Workforce Dataset, 2012
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