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01.12.2016 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2016 Open Access

BMC Oral Health 1/2016

Views of Australian dental practitioners towards rural recruitment and retention: a descriptive study

BMC Oral Health > Ausgabe 1/2016
Diana Godwin, Ha Hoang, Leonard Crocombe



Despite an increase in the supply of dental practitioners in Australia in recent years, there remains an unequal distribution of dental practitioners with more dental practitioners working in city areas. This is in part due to difficulties in attracting and retaining dental practitioners to rural practice. The aim of this study was to investigate the attitudes of Australian dental practitioners towards what may attract them to rural areas and why they may remain in them.


A descriptive study, utilising telephone, semi-structured interviews with dental practitioners across Australia. Dental practitioners were recruited through their professional associations. Data were analysed using content and thematic analysis.


Fifty participants; 34 dentists, eight oral health therapists, and eight dental prosthetists working in rural and urban areas of Australia. Four main themes were identified: Business Case: concerns related to income and employment security, Differences in Clinical Practices: differences in clinical treatments and professional work, Community: fitting in and belonging in the area in which you live and work, and Individual Factors: local area provision for lifestyle choices and circumstances. The most influential of these themes were business case and individual factors. Smaller rural areas, due to low populations and being unable to provide individuals with their lifestyle needs were considered unappealing for dental practitioners to live. Previous experience of rural areas was highly influential.


The main factors influencing rural recruitment and retention were income sustainability and employment security, and individual factors. Dental practitioners felt that it was harder to earn a sustainable income and provide quality lifestyles for their family in rural areas. Previous experience of rural areas was influential towards long-term rural retention. These factors should be considered in order to develop effective strategies to address the unequal distribution of dental practitioners.
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