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New Dental Council

26 February 2004
New Dental Council

Regulation of the dental professions took a huge stride forward this week with the inaugural meeting in Wellington of a new combined Dental Council.
Unlike many other health professions which have separate regulatory bodies – for example doctors, nurses and midwives - the new Council is an umbrella organisation, covering all dental providers - dentists, dental specialists, dental technicians, clinical dental technicians, dental therapists and dental hygienists. The old Dental Council only regulated dentists and dental specialists, while dental hygienists and dental therapists were not previously registered professions. Newly elected Chair, Dr Brent Stanley, hailed the first meeting (Wedensday, February 25) as a “historic” day. He described the new Dental Council as a visionary concept that is unique amongst health professions.

Established under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act (HPCA) the role of the new Council is to protect the public by ensuring that dental practitioners are registered, safe and competent to practise.

The new Council will have a wide range of powers to ensure that dental practitioners remain competent to practise throughout their working lives. This is in contrast to the previous statutory framework, where it was assumed that practitioners, once registered, were competent enough to practise over a lifetime without ongoing competency requirements.

In future, the Council will be able to take a much more proactive role enabling any competency problems to be identified at an earlier stage. “Under the new Act, there is additional protection for the public,” says Dr Stanley. “From now on we will able to nip many problems in the bud rather than at the point where public safety has already been compromised.”

The new Council faces a challenging time ahead as it seeks to implement the requirements of the new legislation. One of its first tasks will be to define ‘scopes of practice’ setting out the tasks that dental practitioners are legally able to perform and define the boundaries between the various dental professions.

Those dental groups covered by the new Council are:
- Dental therapists (formerly known as dental nurses) - currently provide basic dental care, including prevention for children and adolescents.
- Dental hygienists - scale and polish teeth, and teach patients oral hygiene techniques.
- Dental technicians - make appliances for the mouth, such as dentures, crowns and bridges, under prescription from a dentist or clinical dental technician.
- Clinical dental technicians - take impressions and fit full and partial dentures directly to the public.

Dr Stanley said the increased cooperation and collaboration between these dental provider groups would further develop the concept of the dental team and provide greater protection for the public.

The new 14-member Dental Council consists of 11 members drawn from the various dental provider groups and three lay members. Chair Brent Stanley is a Christchurch-based dentist, while new Deputy Chair, Ms Victoria Hinson, is a lay member.


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