Workforce planning – ensuring the right people with the right skills are in the right place at the right time – is enabled by developing workforce projections. Workforce projections require two components – predicting future demand for the workforce, and predicting future workforce supply.
AFHW – Oral Health used a dynamic stock and flow model to estimate future workforce supply at the national level in Australia. Demand projections employed the utilisation method – which measures expressed demand – and are based on utilisation patterns as they currently exist for five-year age and gender cohorts.
Appendix A contains detail on the supply and demand workforce projection methodology, including the key assumptions underpinning the workforce projections and details of the scenarios modelled. Appendix B contains the list of data sources used in generating the oral health workforce planning projections.
Assigning demand to individual workforces
In AFHW – Oral health – Overview, utilisation patterns were calculated based on Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health (ARCPOH) National Dental Telephone Interview Survey (NDTIS) data on visits and services provided between 1994 and 2010. This utilisation was applied to the total oral health workforce for which the workforce projections were generated, that is, dentists, dentist specialists, oral health therapists, dental hygienists, dental therapists and dental prosthetists. To generate the workforce projections for the component oral health workforces, separate utilisation rates need to be generated for each individual workforce.
Data limitations in assigning demand
Ideally, for the workforce planning projections for the component oral health workforces, data would be available identifying which oral health professional provided each oral health service, to accurately calculate service utilisation for each component workforce.
While the ARCPOH NDTIS collects data on services, this does not include information on which oral health professional provided the services recorded in their survey.
Other data sources which could potentially provide information on the number of services by practitioner were not suitable, either due to coverage concerns or availability:
Information from the Commonwealth Government (collected by Medicare and the Department of Veterans Affairs) and State and Territory departments covers services provided under Commonwealth funded schemes and by states and territories, which only account for a small percentage of all oral health services provided.
Available Private Health Insurance Administration Council data does not provide information on which practitioner type provided which service, the same as the NDTIS.
Information from individual insurance funds, which could identify the practitioner providing the service, was not available. Additionally, there are coverage concerns, as this only covers those people who hold extras cover and can claim dental through their private health insurance.
Given these limitations, an approach to identifying separate utilisation rates for the component oral health workforces had to be developed.
Approach taken to assigning demand
Given the limitations with other potential data sources, and a desire to maintain consistency with the workforce planning projections presented in AFHW – Oral health – Overview, it was decided that the ARCPOH NDTIS data would form the basis for calculating the utilisation rates for the component oral health workforces. Therefore an approach to apportion the total utilisation rate that was calculated from the ARCPOH NDTIS data and used in AFHW – Oral health – Overview, needed to be determined.
One method available was to assume services are provided in accordance with workforce size, and apportion on that basis. For example, dentists (including dentist specialists) account for approximately three-quarters (75.8 per cent) of the registered oral health workforce, therefore it could be assumed they provide 75.8 per cent of services. This proportion can then be applied to the total utilisation rate, to determine the utilisation rate for the dentist workforce projections. This would then be repeated for each of the component workforces.
However stakeholder advice was that this assumption does not hold true for the oral health workforce. Therefore the following approach was used:
The Medicare schedule was used to identify dental item numbers.
These item numbers were split across public and private sectors, and adults and children.
Stakeholders were supplied with this list of item numbers, and provided advice on the oral health practitioner that most commonly supplied that service (according to sector and adult/child)
This proportion was then applied to the total utilisation rate, to determine utilisation for each practitioner type.
Table 1 shows the results of this consultation process. The ‘weighted public and private’ proportions were applied to the total utilisation rate, to determine the utilisation rate for each practitioner type.
Table : Practitioner weighting methodology
Oral Health Practitioners (DH, DT, and OHT)
% based on workforce size
Weighted Public & Private
Using the above approach, the following utilisation rates were used in the workforce projections, and projected forward against future demographic structures (using population projections from the Australian Bureau of Statistics population series B, ABS Cat No. 3222.0, Population Projections, Australia).
Dentist (including dentist specialists)
Oral health practitioner
The approach described above was taken in the absence of available data showing which oral health professional provided each oral health service. Given this limitation, the workforce projection results presented in this publication for the individual oral health workforces should be interpreted with caution.
define the workforce in the base year, including providing information on age, gender, labour force status, registration type, jurisdiction, hours worked, and specialty (where relevant)
calculate workforce exits.
For workforce inflows, Department of Immigration and Border Protection visa grant data will continue to drive the immigration component of the workforce projections. This will be supplemented with NHWDS survey data which reports visa status. For graduates, Australasian Council of Dental Schools data will continue to be used for dental graduates, and Department of Education and National Centre for Vocational Education Research for oral health therapists, dental hygienists and dental therapists.
Investigations will be conducted into the ability to use AHPRA student registration information to calculate graduate numbers.
For workforce demand, improved information is required to be able to generate more robust workforce projections for the component oral health workforces. As outlined in AFHW – Oral Health – Overview, one approach may be to develop a national minimum data set for dental services.