Characteristics and practice profiles of migrant dentist groups in Australia: Implications for dental workforce policy and planning

Madhan Balasubramanian, A. John Spencer, Stephanie D. Short, Keith Watkins, Sergio Chrisopoulos, David S. Brennan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction Migrants comprise a growing proportion of the dental workforce in Australia. To date, research on migrant dentists is limited, raising policy questions regarding the motivations for migration, demographic profiles and work patterns. The purpose of this paper was to present findings from the first national survey of migrant dentists in Australia. Methods All dentists with a primary dental qualification from an overseas institution and registered with the Australian Dental Association (n = 1,872) or enrolled as a graduate student in any of the nine dental schools in Australia (n = 105) were surveyed between January and May 2013. Results A total of 1,022 participants (response rate = 54.5%) were classifiable into three migrant dentist groups: direct recognition (n = 491); Australian Dental Council (ADC) (n = 411); and alternative pathway (n = 120). Overall, 41.8% of migrant dentists were female. More than half of the ADC group (54.1%) were from lower middle income countries. The most frequent motivation for migration according to the direct recognition group (21.1%) was 'adventure', whereas other groups migrated for 'better opportunity'. The majority of ADC respondents (65%) were under 45 years of age, and a larger proportion worked in the most disadvantaged areas (12.4%), compared with other groups. Gender, marital status, years since arrival in Australia and having children varied between the groups (chi square; P < 0.05). Conclusion Dentist groups migrate to Australia for different reasons. The large proportion of the migrant dentist workforce sourced from lower middle income countries points towards deficiencies in oral health systems both for these countries and for Australia. The feminisation of the migrant dentist profile could in future affect dentist-practice activity patterns in Australia. Further research, especially on the settlement experiences of these dentists, can provide better insights into issues faced by these dentists, the nature of support that migrant dentists receive in Australia, the probable future patterns of work and potential impact on the dental workforce and dental service provision.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)146-155
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Dental Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • health workforce
  • migrants
  • national survey
  • policy
  • practice profiles
  • dentists


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