The Dental Council exists to protect public safety. If a practitioner’s health condition gives concern, we work with them and their health professionals to put support mechanisms in place that will keep patients safe while allowing the practitioner to continue in practice if at all possible.

We encourage you to contact us if you or a peer suffers from physical or mental illness, either temporarily or as part of a chronic illness.

Health conditions may impair fitness to practise

Oral health practitioners, like anyone else, get ill and suffer injury.  If you develop a physical or mental health problem, it may impair your ability to practise your profession safely, endangering patients.  Depending on the nature of your illness or injury, you may:

  • be unable to make safe judgements
  • be unable to demonstrate the level of skill and knowledge required for safe practice
  • behave inappropriately
  • risk infecting patients with whom you come into contact
  • act or omit to act in ways that impact adversely on patient safety.

Health conditions that may make you unfit to practise include alcohol or drug dependence, other psychiatric disorders, a temporary stress condition, an infection with a  transmissible major viral infections, and certain illnesses or injuries or physical disabilities.

Delaying intervention, treatment and assistance may not only result in patient care being affected, but may also impact you both professionally and personally.  In our experience, early intervention usually enables a practitioner with a treatable illness or condition to continue practising while receiving treatment.

Notify us if you have concerns

You must notify us if you have doubts about your fitness to practise, or if you have reason to believe another oral health practitioner is unwell and may be unable to perform the functions required of their profession.  You have a legal obligation to do so.  Similarly, if you are an employer of an oral health practitioner, or you are in charge of an organisation that provides health services, you must notify us if you have reason to believe an oral health practitioner in your employ is unable to perform the functions required for the practice of their profession.

Right to seek medical advice

If you are a health practitioner, or you are in charge of an organisation that provides health services, an employer of an oral health practitioner or a medical officer of health, you should inform us if you are concerned about an oral health practitioner’s performance or conduct. You may seek whatever medical advice you consider appropriate to assist in forming your opinion.  In the event that you do notify us, you must tell us about the medical advice you have obtained.

Talk to your insurer

If you are a practitioner and you have a health issue which may impair your ability to practise your profession safely, talk to your professional indemnity insurer.  Insurers have a lot of knowledge and experience on health problems and how they affect a practitioner’s practice

Our approach

If you notify us that you have a health concern, or if we receive a notification about you, we will endeavour to work with you and your medical team. Although our primary objective is to always ensure your patients are kept safe, this does not often preclude you from continuing to work.

Whilst we do have the right to require you to undergo medical examination, and the ability to place conditions on, or restrict your scope of practice, or to suspend your practising certificate; in most cases we have been able to work cooperatively with the affected practitioner to manage the situation.

Our management of a health issue may involve regular reporting from your medical team, urine screening in the event of substance abuse, working under supervision, or if you have suffered an injury, a return to work plan developed in consultation with your medical advisors.    

Find out more

For more information about health promotion and preventive strategies, see the Policy statement on the health and well-being of oral health practitioners.

For the process that will be followed to manage an oral health practitioner with a physical or mental health condition, see the policy on the management of oral health practitioners with conditions affecting their fitness to practise.