“I know a dentist doesn’t get their degree from the back of a Corn Flake pack, but if they’re newly qualified, how competent are they really? I’ve experienced incompetent solicitors with recognised academic backgrounds. Losing your shirt would be bad enough – but your teeth? There’s no coming back from that.”

It’s a more than reasonable question. All of us have at some time gotten the rough end of the pineapple in terms of putting trust in a duly qualified professional or tradesman. It might have been a disinterested doctor with rote prescription choices. Or a builder who liked cutting corners like a power saw.

In the UK, the regulatory body for guaranteeing the quality of dental education and training for dental professionals is the General Dental Council (GDC). A decade ago, it introduced a framework of standards that must be demonstrated by the facilitating educators and institutions, with subsequent modifications made in 2015.

Any failure or shortcoming in a dental programme results in being deemed insufficient.

There are three spheres of quantifiable assessment for dental students: Protecting Patients; Quality Evaluation and Review of the Programme; and Student Assessment. Within those areas are 21 described standards.

Student Assessment requires providers to collect patient feedback. Assessment must utilise feedback collected from a variety of sources, which should include other members of the dental team, peers, patients and/or customers.’

There are 21 criterions of those three broader areas. Programme providers are required to engage with patient feedback as part of the assessment, and it must be collected from a variety of sources. This includes other members of the dental team, peers and patients.

Certainly The Dental Board of Australia considers a bachelor degree from UK, Ireland and New Zealand universities as a substantiated and approved qualification for general registration as a dentist in this country. With its values of “Integrity, Respect, Collaboration and Achievement” the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) is equivalent to the GDC. All dental practitioners – dentists, oral health therapists, dental hygienists, dental prosthetists and dental therapists – are under its jurisdiction; as is every field of medical, nursing, and optometry.

Under the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights every patient has seven fundamental rights. The charter outlines what one expects when receiving any type of medical care and are described as: access; safety; respect; partnership; information; privacy; and giving feedback.

It is embedded in the National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standards.

AHPRA works in partnership with 15 National Boards to ensure the community has access to a safe healthcare workforce of registered professionals under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme. Public safety is its absolute priority.

Every decision is guided by the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (the National Law), and is in force across every state and territory. AHPRA maintains consistent and evidence-based standards, codes and guidelines. It holds enhanced capabilities to adjust and improve the regulatory model by its proactive use of data and intelligence.

There are five regulator functions of AHPRA that protect you as a dental patient.

Professional standards for dentists are upheld by the policy advice AHPRA gives to National Boards covering registration, standards and guidelines. It ensures that only dentists with the skill and qualification to provide ethical and competent care are registered to practise.

AHPRA manages the license renewals, as well as processing registration for overseas practitioners.

Any concerns a patient has about the performance or conduct of an individual dentist is handled by AHPRA on behalf of the National Boards; except in New South Wales and Queensland where those notifications are entirely managed by AHPRA itself. It works with health complaints entities (HCEs) so that appropriate organisations are alerted to any community disquietude.

AHPRA monitors and audits dental practitioners to guarantee compliance with Board requirements at all times.

Importantly, AHPRA works with accreditation authorities and committees so that at all times, graduating students are suitably skilled and qualified to register as an oral health professional.

AHPRA’s free, online, accurate, and publicly accessible national Register of Practitioners gives the registration status of every health practitioners in Australia. It’s how the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme keeps Australian individuals safe

If a dentist’s name can’t be found on this resource, without question they are not registered to practise. It is continuously updated and the only reliable source for information regarding the legal status of a healthcare professional, with published links to any disciplinary decisions made against a practitioners record.

There is no gap between being granted registration as a dentist and appearing on the register.

It’s important that any search is done with the correct spelling and under the name the dentist has used for registration. If their name can’t be found, or you have any questions Ahpra is easily contacted and wants to help.

Dentists are people too: the may prefer to use a middle name, or anglicised version of their official first name. Being known by a different name to their registered one is in no way indicative of anything untoward. After all, Declan Patrick Aloysius Macmanus is hardly Elvis Costello. Paul Hewson is no Bono; and Amethyst Amelia Kelly doesn’t sing like Iggy Azalea. So don’t sweat the small stuff.

In Australia, every precaution and process is in place to keep you safe in your dentist’s chair. Whether they’re an old hand, or a new one. Remember, J.K Rowling once wrote just one page. Have confidence in the skill and talent of your dentist. They worked hard for it so they could help give you a healthy, happy life.

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