How prepared are newly qualified dental practitioners for practice in Australia?* – ADOHTA 2021

How prepared are newly qualified dental practitioners for practice in Australia?*

Prof. Julie Satur1, Mr  Mark  Ford2, Professor  Rodrigo  Mariño1

1Melbourne Dental School , The University of Melbourne , Australia, 2The Australian Dental Council , Melbourne , Australia

The practice of dentistry is more challenging than at any preceding time and requires complex skills and knowledge, and often multiple interpretive options.  Determining whether dental curricula prepare graduates to practice safely and at an acceptable standard is of paramount importance for the public and the profession, and the Australian Dental Council (ADC) in its accreditation of dental practitioner programs. To assist in understanding the effectiveness of its accreditation processes, the ADC commissioned a study to assess the preparation for practice of Australian dental graduates*.

The study used a systematic review to conceptualise a theoretical framework for preparedness for practice, and both qualitative and quantitative data collection from a range of stakeholders, including consumers, educators, employers, final year students and newly qualified dental professionals.

Findings indicate that perceptions of new graduates and stakeholders of preparedness for practice for graduate dental practitioners, were very similar in that there appear to be good standards of preparedness. Stakeholders viewed new graduates as having a good theoretical foundation with good training in general dental practice and basic clinical procedures but lacking some specific aspects of clinical practice which can be improved with experience. Most of the limitations were attributed to clinical treatment exposure, length of student placements, and other contextual elements of clinical work which cannot be easily provided in simulated environments.

The findings of this study will be used by the ADC to inform several areas of work. This includes the review of the Professional competencies of the newly qualified dental practitioner occurring throughout 2021. These competencies influence dental curricula and assessment, as well as how overseas dental practitioners seeking registration in Australia are assessed. The study identifies several areas in which dental practitioners could be better prepared for practice, which the ADC has committed to exploring in collaboration with stakeholders.

*We acknowledge the following co-authors: Prof. Rodrigo Mariño, Prof. Clare Delany, Prof. David Manton, Dr. Kate Reid, Prof. Julie Satur, Dr. Rebecca Wong, Dr. Felicity Crombie, Mr. Geoff Adams, Dr. Clare McNally, Dr. Antonio Celentano, Prof. Mike Morgan, Dr. Mathew Lim, Dr. Diego Lopez. This paper presents findings from the study ‘Preparation for practice of newly qualified dental practitioners in Australia’. Melbourne Dental School, The University of Melbourne (2021).


Dr Julie Satur has an international reputation for leading research and education in the oral health therapy field with a current appointment as Professor of Oral Health at the Melbourne Dental School, Director of Engagement and Indigenous Programs and senior researcher. She has a background and current registration as a dental therapist, with post graduate studies in preschool oral health, health promotion and health policy and regulation. Julie has led Oral Health Therapy discipline education, accreditation and research preparation programs for over 20 years and is research active in oral health inequalities, intersectoral partnership work, and oral health workforce. Her recent research has been around preparedness for practice of dental graduates, motivational interviewing, oral health in the mental health sector and Indigenous oral health. Julie has been active over many years in professional regulation and in public oral health policy for Australian State and Commonwealth governments and more recently, in the USA around dental therapy practice.

Mark has extensive experience in process improvement and policy implementation, and held roles across the education, health and government sectors. Joining the ADC as a Senior Accreditation Officer in 2013, Mark played an integral role in the review of the accreditation standards in 2014 and again in 2019-2020. Mark was heavily involved in the previous revision of the professional competencies expected of newly qualify dental practitioners in 2015-2016. In his role with the ADC, Mark is responsible for overseeing the accreditation of dental practitioner programs and leads the accreditation team’s policy and process development in this area.