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J Dent Educ. 2009 Mar;73(3):416-25.

Patterns of dental therapists' scope of practice and employment in Victoria, Australia.

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  • 1Melbourne Dental School, University of Melbourne, 720 Swanson Street, Melbourne, Victoria, 3010, Australia.


In Australia, dental therapists have practiced only within the state-operated School Dental Services (SDS) for around forty years providing preventive, diagnostic, restorative, and health promotion services to children and adolescents in a collaborative and referral relationship with dentists. Changes to legislation in 2000 have seen limits to dental therapists' employment removed, allowing private sector employment. This study examines the changes to dental therapists' employment since 2000 using a self-completed questionnaire with a response rate of 82 percent. Approximately one-third of responding dental therapists reported that they spent some time employed outside the SDS in community health services and private orthodontic and general practices, which indicates an acceptance of this type of dental care provider in these areas. The clinical services that dental therapists are currently providing are a complex mix with significant variations according to type and geographical location of practice, but include high levels of patient assessment, diagnosis, treatment planning, and the restoration of teeth. The findings from this study indicate that when legislative restrictions on employment settings are removed, there is a demand and demonstrable role for dental therapist-delivered services in nongovernment dental practices.

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