Dental therapists' expanded scope of practice in Australia: a 12-month follow-up of an educational bridging program to facilitate the provision of oral health care to patients 26+years
Prior to 2009, dental therapists' scope of clinical practice in Victoria was limited to patients 25 years or younger. However, increases in dental demand by adults 26+ years required an alternative approach to service delivery. This paper outlines the self-reported confidence and knowledge level of dental therapists at 3, 6, and 12 months postcompletion of an educational program aimed at providing them with the skills to treat adults aged 26+ years. The study also surveyed dentists in the practice about the dental therapists' knowledge and the impact of their extended scope of practice on the clinics' operation.After completion of their educational program, the dental therapists who participated were surveyed at 3, 6, and 12 months postcompletion to assess their self-reported confidence levels and knowledge. Senior dentists at the clinic were surveyed to understand the impact of the subsequent change in practice of the dental therapists who undertook this training, as well as any concerns of perceived educational gaps.Surveys showed increased self-reported confidence levels by the dental therapists at 3, 6, and 12 months after completion of the program. Dental therapists and mentoring dentists identified that further education was needed in areas such as oral medicine, pathology, medically compromised patients, medications, prosthodontics, and referrals.Dental therapists felt confident and knowledgeable postprogram to treat patients 26+ years, within their scope of practice. Dentists generally felt that dental therapists, after completing the educational program, were confident and knowledgeable. Educational areas to focus on in future programs were identified.