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'Urgent' action needed on oversupply of dentists

29 April, 2014

The Australian Dental Association (ADA) and the Australian Dental Students Association (ADSA) have openly voiced their concerns about future job prospects for budding dentistry students.

As part of an ongoing campaign to raise awareness about the oversupply of dentist and allied dental practitioners, ADA President, Dr Karin Alexander, and ADSA President, Audrey Irish, responded to questions from students and recent graduate dentists seriously concerned about their career prospects.

"It takes at least five years of study to become a dentist and course costs can range between $50,000 and $250,000 depending on student status. This does not include costs for equipment," Irish said.

"Unless we balance student numbers with demand, we are setting new graduates up for unemployment."

"The ADA has been trying to have the government listen to its concerns about workforce oversupply for some time now," said ADA Federal President Dr Karin Alexander.

"It is inappropriate and economically irresponsible of the government to invest so much money in the education of dentists, only to have them take up employment in less skilled roles."

Despite repeated submissions to the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency by the ADA, dentists remain on the Skilled Occupation List for migration purposes.

Dentists from the UK and Ireland can receive automatic recognition of their qualifications in Australia and while those from other countries have to pass an exam, the number of overseas qualified dentists entering Australia each year is more than the output of two dental schools.

Coupled with large numbers of Australian graduates and because of the demand driven funding model for university places, universities have to take all students who meet the requirements for entry regardless of the lack of job prospects.

"Any claim by the government that this oversupply will address distribution issues is naïve," Dr Alexander said.

Dentists can only set up a practice where the costs of providing the services can be met.

As confirmed by the Australian Tax Office in 2012, up to 79 per cent of annual turnover for a dental practice is expended in operating costs.

Dr Alexander concluded: "To make a practice viable there must be an adequate population base and in some rural and remote areas, the population is just too small to sustain a practice on an ongoing basis."

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