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Dental practitioner rural work movements: A systematic review

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 04:02 authored by Godwin, DM, Thi HoangThi Hoang, Crocombe, LA, Bell, E

Introduction: There is a globally observed unequal distribution of dental and other health practitioners between urban and rural areas in OECD countries. Dental practitioners provide important primary healthcare services to rural populations. Workforce shortages and stability issues in underserved areas can have negative effects on rural communities. Strategies used to fix the dental practitioner workforce maldistribution need to be investigated.

Method: The study had primary focus on Australia and included relevant international literature. Databases used were PubMed, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), Informit, Web of Science, Scopus and Summon. Search terms included dental practitioner, rural, remote, retention, recruitment and strategies.

Results: Sixteen articles met the inclusion criteria. The articles described a total of eight different positive factors and 12 negative factors towards rural practice. The positive factors related to the nature of the type of clinical work being a 'challenge', close social and professional support networks, enjoyment of rural lifestyle and successful integration into the rural community. The negative factors mentioned included social and professional isolation, workload and type of clinical work, access to further education opportunities, access to facilities, education for children and job opportunities for a partner, and inability to integrate into the rural community. The articles that analysed recruitment incentives described three strategies currently used to influence recruitment, all of which were financial or contractual in nature. Articles mentioning retention factors described seven long-term retention motivators; of these, six of them were personal reasons. The most commonly mentioned motivational factor for recruitment and retention of the rural dental practitioner workforce was the effect of prior rural exposure for dental practitioners.

Conclusions: The results of this review indicate that the most important influences on rural dental practitioner workforce recruitment and retention were a combination of financial reimbursement and personal reasons. There was also a large influence of rural medical workforce research on untested assumptions and drivers of the rural dental practitioner workforce. The high recruitment rate compared with the low retention rate indicates that current strategies were not effective in addressing rural dental practitioner workforce shortages in the long term.


Publication title

Rural and Remote Health



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School of Health Sciences


Australian Rural Health Education Network

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Rights statement

Copyright 2014 ARHEN (Australian Rural Health Education Network)

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Socio-economic Objectives

Dental health

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