If you are a dentist or an aspiring dentist, you must have definitely heard that dentistry is saturated as a profession now. You may have even contributed to the discussion with your expert opinion, giving an example of how there is a dental clinic in almost every nook and corner of your city.
‘dentistry is saturated’ I have seen dentists using it as an ice-breaker at conferences to start a conversation with another dentist, makes me wonder, is it really saturated??
My itch told me to find out, so I did a little data-digging and here is what I found.
By April 2019, there were 2.7 lakh dentists registered with the DCI (Dental council of India) for a population of 134 crores. Meaning a ratio of 1 dentist to about 5000 people. This is way above WHO (world health organization) recommendation, that is 7500 people to 1 dentist.
Add to it the 27000 dentists passing out every year.
Dentistry surely is saturated!!
1 dentist to a 5000 population would mean that oral health problems should go down year on year and oral health awareness should rise, reducing the out of pocket expenditure for dental problems.
However, that is not the case. NOT EVEN CLOSE!
Dental procedures are one of the most cost-intensive treatments and more often than not, lead to avoidance of these treatments at the cost of overall health and wellbeing.
Why is that?
Let me give you another hard fact.
According to data, 65.53% of Indian population lives in rural areas, with dentist distribution ranging from 1 to 50,000 to 1 to 1,50,000 in some areas. Yes, 1 dentist to 1,50,000 people.
India has the highest number of oral cancer cases in the world. 4 out of every 10 cancer cases are oral in nature. According to Oral Cancer Foundation of India, we lose about 1,30,000 lives to oral cancer every year.
What are we losing with these two pictures with such deep, stark differences? The answer is, a lott!!
In cities, where dental clinics are found in every second building in prime areas, most of them do not do well in terms of practice and revenues. To compete with the other clinics in the locality, all kinds of subsidies and discounts are offered, spoiling the entire dental market.
On the other hand, if one dentist does not do as well as the others, it affects their morale and confidence. And they find it difficult to recover their capital or even day to day expenses of the clinic.
Whereas, in rural areas, most of the dental practice happens in government settings, given the lack of private practitioners. And because one dentist has to see close to 50 + patients on an average, the quality of practice is lost, let alone the patient education and awareness.
Both are not beneficial to the dentists, the patients or the society.
We either got to change this scenario or change our statement. Dentistry isn’t saturated, it is only saturated in urban areas!
A lot of unmet demands lie in rural areas where real heros are required to change the lives of people who are devoid of basic dental services!!
Are we ready to change that? What will it take to shift the table to where it is needed the most? What role can the government play and how can we the Urban Dentists help? I will try to answer all of these points and more in my next article.
Do share what is your take on this, in the comments below.
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