Tasmania was an integral participant in early dental initiatives. The Beaconsfield Council in the North of the state was the first state to fluoridate its water in 1953 and was followed closely by the Launceston and Hobart councils. After the passing of the Fluoridation Act in 1968 saw all communal water supplies in Tasmania fluoridated.
The School of Dental Nursing also opened during this period. The first intake of 10 students occurred in 1966, making Tasmania the first state in Australia to train and graduate School Dental Nurses (Therapists) to treat school children. The Hobart based School underwent a name change in 1977 to the Tasmanian School of Dental Therapy and continued to educate a yearly intake of students until the last intake in 1987. In the 90’s Dental Therapists in Tasmania were educated and trained under a studentship program delivered by the University of South Australia. When this partnership came to an end a new partnership was formed with the Westmead College of Dental Therapy in Sydney and graduates returned to employment with the Tasmania School Dental Service.
Tasmanian no longer has an intrastate education pathway for the education of Dental practitioners, but is developing links with Tertiary Education Providers from other states to recruit newly graduated Oral Health Therapists to the state, as well as welcoming those from overseas. We also value the experience and knowledge of those trained in a sole dental discipline.
The delivery of services to the community by Dental Therapists has undergone many changes. It has evolved from a mobile van orientated school based service managed by the Tasmanian School Dental Service to a varied and public and private based Dental Practitioners Professional Community. While the majority of Dental and Oral Health Therapists are still employed by Oral Health Services Tasmania in public community dental clinics, the dental legislations reviews undertaken from 1998-2004 by the National Competition Policy opened the door for Dental Therapists to work in the private sector.
The Tasmanian Dental Therapy Association was formed in the 1960’s as a branch of the CPSU Union. The main aim of the Association at this time was to provide support and guidance to its professional members as well as mentoring and guidance for those newly graduated to the profession. It became a separate entity in the early 90’s. The Association has provided a high level of professional guidance, support, advocacy and continued education to its members to date. The TDTA has recently undergone a name change to Australian Dental and Oral Health Therapists Association – Tasmanian Branch and will continue to deliver and maintain its high level commitment to the profession and its members at a state and national level.