The Dental profession is regulated nationally principally by AHPRA but co-regulated by The Dental Council in NSW and the Office of the Health Ombudsman in Queensland. Registration of dental practitioners is still provided by the Dental Board of Australia.

The regulators (with few exceptions such as CPD and criminal history compliance) operate – like a police force – by acting on notifications, or complaints. Put simply, if there is no complaint, then there is no assessment or investigations.

In most states, most assessments and investigations conclude with the dentist providing responses and the matters being ‘heard on the papers’ with no physical oral hearing.

In NSW, the opposite is often  true and the Dental Council regularly holds hearings and panels.


When a complaint is made, it is received and once it is received an assessment usually takes place, and the dentist as asked to respond by way of providing clinical records and a response.

After that assessment except in NSW, a decision will be made whether to investigate (which means an investigator is appointed) and often expert opinion will be obtained. In NSW the matter might be referred to an assessment panel, or it may be the subject of a Council hearing.

If the matter is investigated, it will take many months as a matter of course.

Nothing happens quickly, except if immediate action is taken, meaning the public is at risk and the authority acts relatively quickly.


Once the matter is assessed the Council (in NSW) or Board elsewhere will decide whether to caution, reprimand, impose conditions, or suspend.

A caution means the practitioner is cautioned – a warning if you like.

A reprimand means that the public is made aware that the practitioner is reprimanded, usually with conditions.

Conditions generally mean there is a public record of the conditions on the AHPRA website, and supervision, education and limitations on practice and compliance are frequent conditions.


If a complaint is made, don’t panic.

Immediately seek assistance from your indemnifier.

If your indemnifier will only review your response to the complaint, you might want to have an expert prepare the response for you.  The early proper detailed response is absolutely critical.

If you would have difficulties in responding in the prescribed time – 14-28 days, then ask for an extension.


Of course. Often this can set the scene for the balance of the matter, and it is critical that this is performed by an appropriate professional. Too often this initial response is not taken seriously. The input needs to be both clinical and legal.

Indemnifiers and peer advisors often have little or no experience of the appeal and review process – which has to be borne in mind. The indemnity offered does not extend to review and appeals in most cases.

I can put full legal advocacy and dental experience into a response and get ahead of the matter for you, rather than just be reactive.

The response I do for you should  be shown to your indemnifier, thereby preserving your rights.

If conditions on your practice would be problematic, then don’t put this at risk-  contact Brad at info@dentalegal.com.au or call 07 30071777 for a free initial assessment of your matter.