Re: The Perceived Issue of Oversupply of Dentists, Roundtable Discussion, May Oral Health

by Letter to the Editor

“Perceived” as opposed to real? Please note the following statistics reported in R.K. House and Associates Ltd., Economic Report to the Dental Profession, Ontario Dental Association, November 2014):

1. In Ontario, the ratio of population to GP dentists plus hygienist decreased from 1052 to 675 over the course of the last decade.

2. Not surprisingly, the number of dentists who claimed to be “busy” during that period declined from 30 percent to 15 percent.

3. Also, not surprisingly, the number of dentists who claimed to be “slow” during that period rose increasing from 30 percent to 45 percent.

These three points are facts regardless of provider distribution. “Perceived” oversupply? The oversupply is real and it is growing every year!

A classmate of mine, an oral surgeon practicing in remote Saskatchewan, tells me that he sees emergencies right away but for an elective procedure it takes one year to get an appointment with him. Note “one year”—note “remote Saskatchewan”.

At the other end of the scale, all of us have seen cases like the following. A 20-something young lady whom we have been looking after for her entire life is a student in Toronto. She notes a “free cleaning” prominently displayed at a dental office so she goes in. The office takes her immediately, provides the “free” cleaning and offers a “free” examination and “free” X-rays. They detect 12 areas of decay! “Fortunately for her”, they have the time to treat her right away. Her built-in crap detectors (we all have them) are activated and she declines. She makes an appointment with our office; we are unable to find any decay!

To quote Harry Truman, “The only thing new in the world is the history, which we don’t know”. Medical/dental economic history is replete with cases like the two described above. In areas with provider shortages like in the Saskatchewan example, patients suffer, often tragically. On the other hand, with provider oversupply as exists in most parts of Ontario, patients suffer in a different way, also, often tragically.

If the ratio of population to GP dentist plus hygienist continues to decrease in Ontario, dentistry risks losing its attractiveness as a career choice and its effectiveness as a health care provider to society.

Milan Somborac, DDS
Collingwood, ON