Dentist shortage in the Netherlands is increasing

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Dentist shortage in the Netherlands is increasing

The shortage of qualified dentists threatens to get bigger and bigger. Universities annually educate around 240 dentists, while at least 359 dentists are needed every year. Recruiting more professional foreign dentists seems the only achievable short-term solution. 

In addition to the shortage, uncertainties around the current group of dentists grow, according to Wolter Brands, chairman of the Dutch dentistry branch organization KNMT. “Consequences may be that patients see their travel time increase substantially or eventually face definitive closure.”

Accepting more patients per dentist and spreading check-ups over a longer period of time doesn’t work, Wolter Brands points. “Due to Covid fear, people postponed their dentist check-up. Not without severe consequences. Normally, tartar will be removed every half year. Now it’s every year, or less. When you leave tartar for a longer period of time, you get periodontal issues which will cost patients even more in time.”

How big is the shortage?

According to the KNMT, we have 9726 active dentists in the Netherlands. That’s 1 in 1820 Dutch. In addition, around 240 dentists graduate from University every year. But at the same time 300 dentists stop working. Expectations are that 1 in 3 dentists will retire in the next ten years. Besides, new educated dentists work less hours on average. So not only will there be less dentists, future dentists will have less time to see patients. 

Desperate times call for desperate measures

If it continues like this, dentists will give preference to their own patients and refuse to take-in new ones, Brands thinks. “Look, at a given moment every dentist thinks to himself: who am I here for? For my own patients. Full is full. We already have a situation where dentists don’t accept new patients or just relatives of existing patients.”

According to the KNMT-chairman, shortage risks increase due to the average age of the current group of dentists. On average, dentists are quite old. That’s a fact. And when large groups of dentists suddenly stop, major problems arise. Elderly dentists are willing to contribute and work longer than expected from them. They love their job and love having patient contact. 

But the older they become, the greater the risk of getting various ailments. And when the government will set age restrictions, elderly dentists are still forced to stop. 

More foreign dentists are needed

The solution is twofold. On the one hand we have to educate more dentists. We mentioned above that an increase from 240 to 359 is necessary. But up to now the Dutch government seems not very willing to go along with this. Several Universities have consolidated their education and some even divested their offer. 

At this time, recruiting more foreign dentists seems the only achievable short-term solution. That number has already increased largely in the past 20 years. From 5 percent in 2003 to over 20 percent in 2021. Most of them are from other EU-countries. 

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Dentist shortage in the Netherlands is increasing
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