Scope of practice competencies for dentists

Below, we set out the competencies that dentists must meet in order to be registered in New Zealand. For each competency, we provide the criteria against which performance can be measured.

The competencies for the various dental specialties are currently under development.

On this page


A competent dentist is one who applies knowledge, skills, attitudes, communication, and judgement to the delivery of appropriate oral health care in accordance with the scope of practice within which they are registered.

 Understanding current scientific knowledge


A competent dentist understands current biological, physical, cultural, social, and psychological factors involved in dental and oral disease, and in attaining and maintaining oral health.

Measuring understanding

The dentist:

  • demonstrates an understanding of biological, physical, cultural, social, and psychological factors in dentistry
  • uses these factors to inform best practice
  • communicates this knowledge to patients and the wider community
  • demonstrates familiarity with, and implements, oral health maintenance programmes.

Obtaining patient information


A competent dentist obtains, by interview and examination, patient information needed to deliver oral health care, and records this information logically, legibly, and securely.

Measuring patient information

Records show:

  • an adequate medical history
  • an adequate dental history
  • adequate charting, demonstrating that all dental tissues and associated structures have been examined closely
  • appropriate radiographs of adequate diagnostic quality.

Analysing information and planning an oral health care programme


A competent dentist assesses client or patient information to identify oral health problems. The dentist then formulates an evidence-based treatment plan that addresses:

  • the aetiology of dental and oral disease
  • the attainment of oral health
  • priority of management
  • patient options
  • predicted outcome.

Measuring analysis and planning

The dentist demonstrates and records:

  • accurate diagnosis
  • an adequate, evidence-based, prioritised treatment plan
  • easily understood options
  • instructions given for prevention
  • recall arrangements made
  • advice sought from other practitioners.

Providing oral health care


A competent dentist clearly communicates the details of an oral health care plan to patients to obtain informed consent. Where necessary, a competent dentist carries out agreed procedures and manages any complications.

Measuring clinical competence in restorative dentistry

The dentist demonstrates clinical competence in:

  • ensuring teeth are free of active caries
  • creating a cavity appropriate for the restorative material used
  • using a chemical preparation of the tooth surface appropriate for the material used
  • maintaining or improving the health of other tissues
  • providing sufficient moisture control.

Measuring clinical competence in advanced restorative dentistry, including crown and bridge

The dentist demonstrates clinical competence in:

  • creating an appropriate design for the restoration
  • using an appropriate core with adequate tooth reduction, axial taper with well-defined finish line and margin placed in appropriate position
  • protecting dental pulp, periodontal tissues and adjacent teeth
  • using post cores of adequate design and placement
  • using temporary crowns of appropriate material with adequate retention, finish, form, comfort, and appearance
  • completing the final restoration with adequate retention, contour, margins, contacts, and occlusal form
  • meeting the patient’s functional needs and aesthetic expectations.

Measuring clinical competence in endodontics

The dentist demonstrates clinical competence in:

  • using the rubber dam
  • ensuring adequate access, with conservation of tooth structure
  • determining accurate working length
  • carrying out adequate canal preparation, irrigation, and medicament placement
  • completing an appropriate temporary restoration
  • carrying out an adequately condensed root filling to correct length
  • having in place correct post-operative assessment and recall.

Measuring clinical competence in periodontal management

The dentist demonstrates clinical competence in:

  • detecting and removing plaque and calculus
  • correcting predisposing factors
  • giving and recording appropriate self-care instructions
  • having in place a recall regime
  • providing adequate management of acute periodontal infections.

Measuring clinical competence in surgery

The dentist demonstrates clinical competence in providing:

  • accurate pre-op assessment
  • correct technique with minimal trauma
  • adequate post-operative instructions and follow-up care.

Measuring clinical competence in radiography

The dentist demonstrates clinical competence in:

  • relating patients’ needs with relevant structures in view
  • providing adequate film quality, correctly mounted
  • taking a view ideal for diagnosis
  • practising satisfactory radiation safety
  • recording accurate reports.

Measuring clinical competence in use of local anaesthetics

The dentist demonstrates clinical competence in:

  • using correct solutions and technique
  • achieving adequate anaesthesia.

Knowing when to refer


A competent dentist refers for advice or treatment where diagnosis and treatment planning indicates that the patient requires a level of knowledge or skills greater than those of the dental practitioner.

Measuring clinical competence in referrals

The dentist demonstrates clinical competence in:

  • making appropriate referrals
  • obtaining advice from other health professionals where necessary.

Assessing the effectiveness of oral health strategies


A competent dentist objectively assesses both short-term and long-term outcomes of oral health strategies.

Measuring competence in assessing effectiveness

The dentist demonstrates competence in:

  • understanding the prognosis for treatment strategies offered to individuals and to the community at large
  • communicating this knowledge to patients and the wider community.

Communicating effectively


A competent dentist communicates effectively with and educates patients, other health workers, and the public on oral health matters.

Measuring competence in communications

With patients, the dentist demonstrates:

  • good rapport
  • empathy
  • adequate history-taking technique
  • explanation of findings, treatment options and likely outcomes in easily understood language
  • the ability to assure patient dignity.

With other health professionals, the dentist:

  • refers where necessary
  • seeks advice where necessary
  • contributes dental input to overall health treatment planning.

With the general public, the dentist:

  • promotes oral health
  • communicates the importance of factors such as diet and smoking on oral health
  • expresses a professional view on fluoride, amalgam, and other topical public issues.

Understanding scientific methodology


The competent dentist undertakes research and/or analyses relevant scientific literature, and applies findings to the delivery of appropriate oral health care.

Measuring competence in applying recent knowledge to practice

The dentist demonstrates understanding of current issues including:

  • recent developments in dentistry
  • the evidential base of dental practice
  • introduction of new materials and treatment techniques based on research.

Maintaining competence


The competent dentist maintains competence by monitoring the outcomes of oral health care delivery, and undertaking continuing personal professional development.

Measuring maintaining competence

The dentist fulfils the requirements of a recognised recertification programme or Dental Council minimum recertification requirements.

Understanding and complying with legal requirements


The competent dentist understands and complies with the ethical responsibilities and legislative requirements for the safe and competent practice of dentistry in New Zealand.

Measuring legal understanding and compliance

The dentist demonstrates familiarity with, and complies with, relevant legislation and professional standards including:

  • Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003
  • Code of Patient Rights
  • Accident Compensation Corporation
  • Radiation Protection Act
  • Medicines and Misuse of Drugs legislation
  • Privacy Act and the Health Information Privacy Code
  • Restrictive trade practices legislation
  • Fair Trading Act
  • Occupational safety and health legislation
  • Children, Young Persons and their Families Act — specifically the protection of children.
  • Dental benefits
  • Employment legislation, if appropriate
  • Dental Council Standards Framework for Oral Health Practitioners
  • Joint Dental Council/NZDA practice standards
  • NZDA Code of Ethics.