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Will Norway have fewer dentists in the future?

With the oral hygiene of young Norwegians continually improving, a discussion about the number of dentists needed in the future has been brought into focus. (Photograph: Nikodash/Shutterstock)
Dental Tribune International

Dental Tribune International

Tue. 26. September 2017


OSLO, Norway: Dentist and University of Oslo lecturer Dr Carl Christian Blich believes Norway will be a place in which fewer dentists are required in the future. His comments are in response to a finding that almost a quarter of 18-year-old Norwegians have no cavities. However, the Norwegian Dental Association (NDA) does not agree.

The data collected by Statistics Norway determined that 59.2 per cent and 23.6 per cent of 12- and 18-year-old Norwegians, respectively, have no cavities at all. In consideration of this predicted brighter and whiter future, Blich believes that the number of places available for studying dentistry should be reduced. Speaking to the Norwegian public broadcasting company NRK, he said: “Such a specialised subject requires volume training to stay on top and it will be harder to maintain a sufficient level of proficiency when more and more dentists share fewer tasks.”

In response, President of the NDA Dr Camilla Hansen Steinum said to Dental Tribune International: “The NDA wants high-quality dental education in Norway. An ongoing project initiated by the government is researching the need for health care professionals, including dentists, in Norway in the future. Until we have proper projections of the need for dentists in the future, the NDA will not support a reduction in the number of study places.”

According to Dr Nils Martin Stølen, senior researcher at Statistics Norway, the latest projections for demand and supply of dentists were published in 2012. In those predictions, the demand for dentists was forecast to increase somewhat, but Statistics Norway also pointed at the uncertainty of such projections because different factors move in different directions. However, according to Stølen, after 2010, which was the base year for the projections, the number of employed dentists in Norway had indeed increased slightly.

“If we made new projections now, I would guess that we would have reduced future growth in demand because of an improved dental status, as pointed out by Blich. As there are counteracting factors, as pointed out by the NDA, it is difficult to say whether demand for dentists will decrease. I have said that demand will probably grow at a lower rate than before, but not that it will decrease,” said Stølen.

With improved oral health and more people retaining their natural dentition into old age, the requirements for dental care may simply change. “Dental health in Norway is progressing and getting better. At the same time, people are living longer with their own teeth and more people are surviving serious illnesses such as cancer. These patient groups will require more and different treatment in the future,” said Steinum. Consequently, dental education may need to be adapted to the needs of society.

Blich said to Dental Tribune International, “In Norway, we can’t continue to educate dentists in the future as if ‘business will continue as usual’. The traditional Nordic dental education is without a future and is too limited. The traditional dentist will also encounter a lack of quantity training and will need a broader professional platform in the future, an interesting paradox that must be solved by the profession itself, as long as the service is financed privately, without too many obligations for the authorities.”

Steinum believes that the positive development in Norwegians’ oral health can be attributed to several factors, among them the preventative work being done by dentists, and she noted that it is important that this work be continued. “Caries is just one of the diagnoses dentists are dealing with. Patients will also in the future have a need for various treatments, especially owing to the increasing amount of dental erosion among the Norwegian youth,” she said.

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