Oral Health Australia 

This presentation aired on the 19th of March 2020 in time for World Oral Health Day.

The aim was to give non-dental health professionals an insight to the state of oral health in Australia. Our presenters Mr Ian Epondulan and Ms Lyn Carman discuss how health professionals may navigate in our current health system towards a holistic approach in patient centred care through appropriate screening and referral.


Learning Objectives:

  1. Outline the oral health status of all Australians at different age groups
  2. Describe key research findings on impact of oral diseases on other medical conditions
  3. List key risk factors affecting oral diseases
  4. Summarise the roles and functions of key dental practitioners and services in Australia
  5. Identify appropriate oral health referral pathways for at risk patients and groups

Resource Links

Presentation Slides - Download slides

World Oral Health Day (WOHD)www.worldoralhealthday.org
World Oral Health day is celebrated on March 20 each year and is the largest global awareness campaign on oral health.

Oral Health Care for Older People in NSW - Download Toolkit
This toolkit has oral health information that can be used alongside a partnership with oral health professionals to prevent and minimise health conditions associated with older adults. It also contains an Oral Health Screening tool. 

Better Oral Health in Residential Care
These portfolios were developed in 2009 by the Better Oral Health in Residential Care Project, led by the SA Dental Service and funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. They focus on improving oral health in residential care and have portfolios tailored to different health professionals working in residential care. Download the portfolios below:
Professional Portfolio: for GP's and RN's
Staff Portfolio: for nurses and care workers

Oral Health Screening Tools

The following links are to oral health screening tools, while these all have common features some are tailored to children and younger patients and some are more detailed. It is important to review the tools and find one that will fit with your area of practice

Safety Net Medical Home Initiative - Rapid Oral Health Screening and Risk Assessment Tool 

South Australian Dental Services - Oral Health Assessment Tool  

American Academy of Paediatrics - Oral Health Risk Assessment Tool 

Oral Health Assessment of Older Adults: The Kayser-Jones Brief Oral Health Status Examination (BOHSE) - Oral health assessment tool for nurses

UK Oral Health -  Assessment Tool

National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center
Oral risk assessment checklist  and Oral health risk assessment, screening and follow up form 


Members of the Oral Health Team in Australia

In Australia we have a wide range of dental professionals and specialists. These dental professionals and specialists are AHPRA registered health practitioners under the Dental Board of Australia.

Dental Professionals

General Dentist
In general practice, dentists perform tasks associated with diagnosing, treating and preventing disease and abnormalities of the teeth, gums and mouth.

Dental Therapist
Dental therapists examine and treat diseases of the teeth in pre-school, primary and secondary school children – and are no longer trained in Australia with this single scope of practice.  Traditionally Dental Therapists worked solely in the public sector.

Dental Hygienist and Oral Health Therapist (OHT)
Dental hygienists and oral health therapists are professional, highly trained dental practitioners who focus on disease prevention and oral health promotion and maintenance, through clinical intervention and education. This is fundamental to the management of oral health. The difference between the two professionals is the OHT is recognised for their additional training in other aspects of dentistry such as some diagnostic and restorative dental therapy.

Dental Prosthetist
Engaged in the manufacture of partial and complete dentures, and mouthguards, consulting directly with patients.
Dental Prosthetists originally train as dental technicians but they are allowed to work independently and in public clinics, to provide complete and partial dentures and mouthguards to the public, consulting directly with clients about their dental prosthetic needs.

Dental Specialists

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon (OMFS)
Deals with conditions affecting the mouth, teeth, jaws, and face, providing a range of procedures for their patients including removal of problematic wisdom teeth, jaw re alignment, and reconstructive surgery following facial trauma. Oral maxillofacial surgeons are oral surgeons, but they have undergone additional training to address more complex dental and medical issues. These highly-skilled surgeons have extensive training in dental medicine, often addressing problems associated with the head, mouth, jaws, and neck. Surgeons who have earned this designation have obtained a medical license, which allows them to properly administer anaesthesia and perform more extensive surgeries. Ultimately, OMS surgeons treat various diseases, injuries, and defects of the head and throat – both hard and soft tissue regions

Oral Surgeon
Deals with the diagnosis and surgical management of diseases and injuries affecting mouth, teeth and jaw sockets, place implants and wisdom teeth.

Deals with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the diseases and disorders affecting the soft tissue and bone supporting the teeth.

Specialises in the restoration and replacement of teeth through procedures such as crowns, bridges, dentures and the use of dental implants. is the discipline of dentistry concerned with the consequences of congenital absence or acquired loss of oral tissues.

Deals with the structure, function, and diseases of the human tooth and, in particular, the dental pulp, root and diagnosis of tooth pain and performing root canal

Specialises in diagnosing and correcting alignment problems in growing and mature teeth and jaws, including treatment of crooked, overlapping and overcrowded teeth.

Paediatric Dentist
Focus on preventive and corrective dental care for children and adolescents as well providing oral hygiene education for parents.

Forensic Odontologist
Work to identify unknown human remains via dental records, analyse the source of bite marks and determine the cause of trauma to the face and mouth. Bushfires natural disasters such as MH17 when all that remains are the teeth, identify remains and trace. The forensic odontologist may be called in to do so by police officers, the medical examiner or the coroner. ... If a match can be made, the remains can be identified.

Oral Medicine Specialist
Deals with the diagnosis, and non-surgical treatment of disease and pain in patients with chronic and medically related disorders of the mouth, teeth, jaws and face.

Oral Pathologist
Forensically evaluates whether diseases of the teeth, jaws, gum and facial cavity are cancerous or infectious, and may advise on advanced procedures to treat them.

Public Health Dentist
Work with communities in a non-clinical capacity to improve their overall dental health through education and ongoing programs.

Specialist in Special Needs Dentistry
Focusing on the oral health care of patients with an intellectual disability, or those with medical, physical or psychiatric conditions, this specialty provides specially-tailored preventive and corrective dental treatment.

Dental-maxillofacial Radiologist
Uses diagnostic imaging procedures to identify conditions of the head and neck, with a particular focus on the jaws and teeth.

Non-Registered Oral Health Team Members

Dental Assistant
Dental assistants (sometimes known as dental nurses or dental chairside assistants) are key members of the dental health care team. They work with dentists and other members of the oral health team to deliver high quality dental care in dental offices.

Dental Technician 
Dental technicians construct and repair dentures (false teeth) and other dental appliances including crowns and bridges. Dental technicians work closely with dental prosthetists and dentists in the construction, modification and repair of dentures and other dental appliances.

Dental Laboratory Assistant
Dental Laboratory Assistants have no direct contact with patients, they are responsible for a range of duties in a dental lab, including pouring impressions, producing custom-made trays, manufacturing occlusal registration rims, transferring oral records, articulating models for a range of prostheses and constructing mouthguards.