Scope of Practice

Scope of Practice, which is defined by the profession’s regulatory authority, the Dental Board of Australia (the Board), as the “full range of activities and responsibilities which individuals within the profession are educated, trained and competent to perform”, is integral to the practise of dentistry in Australia.

Each individual practitioner has their own Scope of Practice defined by their skills and experience within the wider industry framework, all of which complement each other and are exercised within a team context where the dentist is the acknowledged clinical leader.

Prior to 30 June 2014 when the revised Scope of Practice Registration Standard came into effect, this meant that each dental professional was required use their judgement to determine if they were acting within their Scope of Practice, with dentists being responsible for the decisions, treatment and advice of the team as a whole and bearing the overall responsibility for supervision of the care provided to patients.

Proposed change and its outcome
In late 2012 into 2013, the Board commenced a review into whether the Scope of Practice Registration Standard should be amended to allow auxiliary dental practitioners such as hygienists and therapists to practise without supervision by a dentist and to undertake additional dental procedures as they saw fit.

While the ADA agreed that these auxiliary practitioners played a vital role in the delivery of dental care in Australia, providing safe, quality care to patients, it was argued that this care is best delivered within the existing structured professional relationship model.

In their submission to the Board’s Review of Scope of Practice Registration Standard, the ADA went on to say that;

“Supervision by dentists of these lesser trained oral health professionals provides the certainty in ensuring that dental care is delivered in a way that ensures that it is both safe and of the highest quality, especially when it comes to public interest.”

Amending the existing regulatory frame was seen as a public safety issue and argued as such by the ADA throughout its representations to the Board.

In mid-2014, after extensive deliberation the Board handed down its decision on the revised Scope of Practice Registration Standard removing the supervisory aspect while retaining the concept of “structured relationships”, in line with the original intent of the Standard.

To assist dentists with adhering to the revised Standard, the ADA created the Structured Professional Relationships Guide and the Structured Relationships Template, which is accessible by members.