Alexander Holden is an ethicist and a practising dentist. He is currently Senior Lecturer and Head of Subject Area for Professional Practice which is concerned with ethics, law, professionalism, sociology and communications within the context of dentistry. Alexander is a member of the Discipline of Population Oral Health. Alexander's research has several approaches, from qualitative sociological work, to critically examining ethical issues and legal analysis.
He currently teaches across all years of the Doctor of Dental Medicine and Bachelor of Oral Health courses where he teaches population oral health and professional practice through a combination of pedagogical approaches, utlising small group tutorials, case-based learning and interactive lectures. In 2020 Alexander's teaching was formally recognised by him being awarded the prestigious Professor Roland Bryant Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Alexander has published extensively in the academic literature with dentistry, public health and bioethics on a range of issues linked to dentistry and the dental profession's interactions with society. He is currently Director and Councillor of both the Australian Dental Association Inc. and the Australasian College of Legal Medicine. Alexander also serves as an associate editor for the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry. Alexander is also involved in national and international dental regulation.
Oral Health Sociology
Alexander is interested in the interaction of the dental profession with the rest of society from a professional and sociological perspective. As part of an International collaboration, he is examining the sociological relevance of portrayals of oral health with reality television. Oral health is closely related to how individuals are perceived in society and the social class that they occupy. Part of Alexander’s interest in this area is to develop the understanding of how dirt, disgust and oral health mesh together as a sociological phenomenon so as to increase understanding of how this impacts inequity.
The dental profession is only recently established; in many parts of the world formal organisation and regulation of dentistry has only existed for around 100 years. Within this area, Alexander is interested in how the dental profession interacts internally, through power relations between different dental practitioner divisions, and also in its external relations with society. As part of this research interest, Alexander has examined codes of conduct in developing understanding of professional attitudes and behaviours. Within this, he has a particular interest in how the dental profession manages internal concerns relating to standards of conduct, health and performance.
A separate, but linked interest of Alexander’s, is digital professionalism in dentistry and how dental professionals utilise social media in their private and public lives. Increasingly, social media is blurring the boundaries between the professional and private conducts of those involved in the delivery of dentistry. How this is being managed from a regulatory perspective is of interest to Alexander.
Cosmetic Dentistry: Professional, Ethical and Legal Issues
One of Alexander’s main research interests is in examining the nature of cosmetic practice in dentistry and its relationship to professional practice. Most of the literature base on cosmetic dentistry makes its philosophical assumptions from cosmetic medicine and surgery. Alexander’s work in this area examines cosmetic dentistry from a socioethical perspective, developing understanding from a dental, rather than medical direction. Part of this work has looked at differing legal approaches to teeth whitening. Alongside examination of cosmetic dentistry, Alexander has been researching the interaction between commercialism and dentistry.
Since joining the Faculty in early 2016, Alexander has developed a curriculum within the Faculty courses that examines the ethical and professional issues faced by dental practitioners, within the legal and sociological contexts of dental practice. Whilst course content primarily focuses upon Australasian issues, there is heavy reference to the Canadian, UK and other jurisdictions.
Alexander is also responsible for teaching dental public health on the DMD course and is the overall coordinator for the three dental public health units of study offered by the dental school as electives as part of the MPH/MGH programs.
Alexander is available as an HDR supervisor for candidates with aligned research interests.
Alexander in currently engaged in research within a variety of areas including:
- Semiotic analysis of media portraying cosmetic dentistry
- Advertising within healthcare
- The ethical, legal and professional issues surrounding cosmetic procedures in dentistry
- Social media use by dental professionals and the ethical and professional challenges raised
- The development of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and the future of the dental profession
- Oral health promotion and Indigenous communities
Alexander is in collaboration with other Institutions, both within Australia and Internationally; he is always willing to discuss his current projects and would be delighted to hear from any potential, future research partners.
He is currently completing research towards the award of a PhD, supervised by Professor Heiko Spallek in the Faculty of Dentistry.
Director and Federal Councilor of the Australian Dental Association Inc.
Member of the Australasian Association of Bioethics and Health Law
Member of the British Association for the Study of Community Dentistry
Member of the Joint Dental Faculties of the Royal College of Surgeons of England
Director, Councillor and Fellow of the Australasian College of Legal Medicine
Runner-up Dental Writer of the Year 2012
Best Young Dentist 2013 (FMC Dentistry Awards) – Midlands Region Winner
Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts
Encouragement Award - Pierre Fauchard Academy / Australian Dental Association Emerging Lecturer Competition 2017
Fellowship of the International College of Dentists
Fellowship of the Pierre Fauchard Academy
Professor Roland Bryant Excellence in Teaching Award 2020
(University of Toronto) Collaborating on examination of dental ethics and public health ethics in relation to oral health.
(The University of Sheffield) Collaborating on investigating the sociological elements of oral health and the dental profession.
(University of Bristol) Collaborating on dental professionalism and the sociology of oral health.
- Money Where Your Mouth Is: How do Dentists Manage Conflicts Between Commercial Pressures of Practice and Professional Obligations?, Holden A, Adam L, Thomson W, Dental Council of NSW/Education and Research Grant
- Consumer involvement in the design and delivery of professional competency examinations and assessments, Holden A, Australian Dental Council (ADC)/Research Grant
- How do the Consumers of Healthcare Evaluate Advertisements and Testimonials Relating to Services?, Holden A, Australian Skeptics Inc/The Australian Skeptics Grant Program
- Enhancing ethical practice during professional placements, Kenny B, McAllister L, Nicole M, Pollard N, Semaan A, Thomson K, Di Michele L, Holden A, DVC Education/Large Educational Innovation Grant
In the media
Dental Industry Media
- Interviewed by Bite Magazine on how to usesocial media in marketing a dental practicein line with professional regulation and the law.
- Provided an interview to Bite Magazine oneffective communication between colleaguesand the importance of learning to compromise and negotiate.
- Highlighted the importance ofeffective complaints managementin Bite Magazine, highlighting how early management and a willingness to discuss patient feedback is a powerful resolution tool.
- Discussingconflicts of interest in dentistry, highlighting work published in the Journal of Law and Medicine.
- Interviewed by the Canadian Dental Association about my research.
Popular Media – Blog posts and Popular Writing
- Published in The Conversationon advertising within dentistry and healthcare in general. (September 29th 2017)
- Writing about teeth-whitening (September 6th 2018)
- Writing about dental tourism (September 25th 2018)
John Menadue’s Blog – Pearls and Irritations
- Oral health – an essential component of a healthy life.
- Laying Out the Road Map for an Australian Universal Dental Scheme
- Private Health Insurance Under the Lens: Dental Providers and Patients Should Contribute to the Discussion
- We Must Fill the Hole in our Public Health Services: Why Doesn’t Medicare Cover the Mouth?
- What should our health professional associations be in the 21st Century?
- The Conversation, writing about dentistry and COVID-19; Can I still go to the dentist? How coronavirus is changing the way we look after our teeth (3rd April 2020)
- The Conversationbeing interviewed as an expert on teeth whitening (25th July 2019)
- Women’s Health Australia – interviewed on teeth whitening (September 2019 issue)
- “Would you like Botox with that? The perfect 'selfie' smile and the rise of the cosmetic dentist”The Sydney Morning HeraldandThe Agediscussing the ethics of cosmetic dentistry and how it is presented (25th August 2019)
- “The lifelong cost of the 'selfie smile': Optional dental veneers on the rise”The Sydney Morning Heraldand The Agediscussing the ethics of cosmetic dentistry (5th September 2019)
- “What you need to know before whitening your teeth”ABC Life.
- 6PR Morning Program with Gareth Parker discussing teeth whitening (6th September 2018)
- 2SER Community Radio Station by Tess Connery discussing teeth whitening (10th September 2018)
- FIVEaa afternoon show by Alan Hickey discussing teeth whitening (10th September 2018)
- ABC Canberra with Jo Lavertydiscussing dentistry and oral health (at 1.37) (13th September 2018)
- Interviewed about dental ethics (at 1.01) byJames Valentine on ABC Sydney(6th September 2018)
- Interviewed on 2SER ondental tourism(7th November 2018).
- FIVEaa afternoon show by Alan Hickey discussing cosmetic dentistry (26th March 2019)
- ABC Radio Sydney on Focus with Cassie McCulloughdiscussing dental ethics and overservicing (7th August 2019)