There are 29 practising dentists per 100,000 population in regional and rural areas compared to 51 per 100,000 population in capital cities, according to Dental Practitioner Statistics Australia, 1994, released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Not only is there a significant metropolitan-bush difference, but there are also marked differences between States and Territories. Tasmania, with 25 dentists per 100,000 population, and the Northern Territory with 32, were well below the national average of 43 dentists per 100,000 population, while South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory, with 50 and 58 respectively, were well above the average.
According to joint author of the report, Mr Fearnley Szuster, whether you visit a dentist in the bush, in the city, or any of the States and Territories, there is an 82 per cent chance your dentist will be a man rather than a woman.
"The majority of dentists are male. Female dentists are younger, work fewer hours per week, and there is a higher percentage who are in salaried employment compared to their male counterparts," Mr Szuster said.
Another major finding is that 81 per cent of practising dentists work in the private sector, with solo practice and associateships the major types of main practice.
Dental Practitioner Statistics Australia, 1994, is one of a series of three reports released by the AIHW's Dental Statistics and Research Unit. The other reports, Dental Hygienist Labourforce Australia,1996, and Dental Therapist Labourforce Australia, 1996, show that South Australia and the ACT have the highest rate per 100,000 population of dental hygienists, whereas Western Australia, Tasmania and Queensland have the highest rate of dental therapists.
Dental hygienists provide preventive services to patients, with a strong emphasis on periodontal diseases, under the supervision of a dental practitioner. Dental therapists provide basic dental care in school dental clinics and in some Western Australian private dental clinics.
"These reports reveal that both of these professions, unlike the dental practitioners, are almost totally female," Mr Szuster said.