Turning Australia into a ‘flat-land’: What are the implications for workforce supply of addressing the disparity in rural–city dentist distribution?

Authors

  • Marc Tennant,

    1. International Research Collaborative – Oral Health and Equity Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology, The University of Western Australia, Nedlands, WA, Australia
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  • Estie Kruger

    Corresponding author
    1. International Research Collaborative – Oral Health and Equity Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology, The University of Western Australia, Nedlands, WA, Australia
    • Correspondence to:

      Estie Kruger,

      International Research Collaborative – Oral Health and Equity,

      The University of Western Australia,

      Nedlands, WA 6009, Australia.

      Email: estie.kruger@uwa.edu.au

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Abstract

Dentistry in Australia has faced, and continues to face, significant workforce issues, in particular, a grossly distorted workforce distribution. In this study, an analysis of the consequences for the workforce that would occur under a series of reduced maldistribution scenarios is examined and reported. Three different scenarios were tested based on existing dental practice to population data at a national level. This study clearly highlights the very significant maldistribution of practices in Australia. However, more importantly, it highlights that to address this maldistribution requires something in the order of a tenfold increase in dental practice numbers (and the commensurate increase in workforce), which is not possible (or reasonable). As a nation, Australia has to look to other methods of achieving equity in access to good oral health. The application of modes of care delivery including, but not limited to visiting services needs to be examined and extended. Clearly, these new methodologies are going to rely on non-dental health professionals taking a far more significant role in leading oral health-care models as well as the expanded application of technology to bring unique skill bases to areas where these skilled individuals do not (and will not) reside.

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