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Aust Health Rev. 2014 Sep;38(4):412-9. doi: 10.1071/AH14022.

Overseas-qualified dentists' experiences and perceptions of the Australian Dental Council assessment and examination process: the importance of support structures.

Author information

  • 1Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health, School of Dentistry, The University of Adelaide, Level 1, 122 Frome Street, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia. Email: ;
  • 2Australian Dental Council, Level 2, 99 King Street, Melbourne, Vic. 3000, Australia. Email:
  • 3Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Sydney, PO Box 170, Lidcombe, NSW 1825, Australia. Email:



The Australian Dental Council is responsible for the assessment of overseas-qualified dentists seeking to practice dentistry in Australia. The aim of this paper is to reflect on the Council's assessment and examination process through the experiences and perceptions of overseas-qualified dentists in Australia.


Qualitative methods were used. Life stories of 49 overseas-qualified dentists from 22 nationalities were analysed to discern significant themes and patterns. We focused on their overall as well as specific experiences of various stages of the examination. The analysis was consistent with a hermeneutic phenomenological approach to social scientific research.


Most participants referred to 'cost' of the examination process in terms of lost income, expenses and time. The examination itself was perceived as a tough assessment process. Some participants seemed to recognise the need for a strenuous assessment due to differences in patient management systems in Australia compared with their own country. Significantly, most of the participants stressed the importance of support structures for overseas-qualified dentists involved in or planning to undertake the examination. These considerations about the examination experience were brought together in two themes: (1) 'a tough stressful examination'; and (2) 'need for support.'


This paper highlights the importance of support structures for overseas-qualified dentists. Appropriate support (improved information on the examination process, direction for preparation and training, further counselling advice) by recognised bodies may prevent potential exploitation of overseas-qualified dentists. Avenues that have been successful in providing necessary support, such as public sector schemes, offer policy options for limited recruitment of overseas-qualified dentists in Areas of Need locations. Such policies should also be in line with the local concerns and do not reduce opportunities for Australian-qualified dentists.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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