Australian dentists' knowledge, opinions and acceptability of oral health therapists and their scope of practice

Magdalena Cree, Helen Tane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Background: In Australia, the oral health therapist (OHT) qualifies with dual clinical scopes of practice in dental therapy and dental hygiene, having skills in early diagnosis, core dental treatments with an emphasis on the prevention of oral diseases and timely referrals for specialist care when necessary. Australian OHTs are registered as dental practitioners when they gain entry to practice. The current Australian and New Zealand registering bodies that regulate the oral health therapy profession, requires that therapists promote and improve health of individuals and the community by understanding and applying principles of primary health care, health promotion and disease prevention. OHTs can work in public and private dental practices. A review of recent literature shows that controversy exists within the dental community in relation to the oral health therapistís scope of practice, with concerns for safety and quality of dental services. Recently the Australian Dental Association opposed proposed changes to ‘dental auxiliaries’ (sic) scope of practice with the presentation of a petition to the Australian Government signed by Australian dental practitioners. The future employment of OHTs in Australia and acceptance of their scope of practice is affected by decisions made by the government, bureaucrats and policy makers. The knowledge, opinions and acceptability by the Australian dentist influence these decisions.
Objective: To investigate Australian dentists’ and dental specialists’ knowledge, opinions and acceptability of oral health therapists and their scope of practice.
Method: A random sample postal questionnaire was sent to 134 dentists and dental specialists Australia wide.
Results: Twenty-seven out of 134 dentists and dental specialists responded, a response rate of 20.1%. Eighty percent of participating dental specialists and 61.9% of participating dentists provided responses showing they had a deep level of knowledge about OHTs, and 84% of the statements relating to knowledge of the OHTs scope of practice. The majority of dentists (90.9%) and specialists (100%) said they would consider employing an OHT.
Conclusion: This study identified that the sample of Australian dentists and dental specialists who participated in this study have increased knowledge and expressed positive opinions about OHTs and their scope of practice, when compared to results from previous and similar published studies undertaken in regional Australia and other countries. Australian dentists and dental specialists who participated in this study demonstrated an overall acceptance of the OHT within their dental community and all were favourable to the employment of an OHT within their dental practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-17
Number of pages7
JournalThe Australian and New Zealand Journal of Dental and Oral Health Therapy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Australian dentists' knowledge, opinions and acceptability of oral health therapists and their scope of practice'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this