The Netherlands is known for its strong economy, high living standards, and the excellent healthcare system. Yet, it is and has been facing challenges when it comes to providing the country with enough dentists. It’s a growing concern for the Dutch healthcare system since it directly impacts the accessibility and quality of dental care for the population. Several factors contribute to this challenge, and in this article, we will give you some insight into the challenges of a balanced dentist ratio in the Netherlands.
There are several reasons why the Netherlands is facing a shortage of dentists. One of these reasons is the limited number of spots available at dental universities. While there are several dental universities in the country, the number of graduates isn’t enough to meet the growing demand for skilled dentists and dental services. The amount of spots available is currently limited to 261 students each year, the majority of them at the Faculty of Dentistry in Amsterdam. Other dental universities are in Groningen (RUG) and Nijmegen (Radboud).
Recently, an advisory board, appointed by the ministries involved, published a report recommending the dental universities’ capacity increase from 261 students to 375 students a year. However, this almost 50% increase in capacity will be a difficult task for dental universities, and the question remains whether or not this will be doable. Furthermore, even when the total number is increased, it will take at least 7 years before these dentists will graduate and enter the labor market.
Another reason for the shortage of dentists in the Netherlands is the demographics of active dentists. 300 dentists are retiring each year, and 40% of all dentists are expected to retire in the next 10 years. With the capacity of dental universities being lower than the number of dentists retiring each year, there is a shortage of dentists that is expected to increase even further in the future.
It is for that reason, that the Netherlands welcomes foreign dentists with open arms and that programs like BGB exist. For foreign dentists looking for a stable salary, a great work-life balance and plenty of opportunities to develop their dental career, the Netherlands is an attractive country to start working as a dentist. Each year, about 100-200 foreign dentists decide to start a career in the Netherlands, and the country needs this influx of foreign dentists to fill up the gaps in the Dutch dental labor market. Currently, about 20% of active dentists working in the Netherlands have obtained their diploma abroad, and with the challenges the country faces, there is room for more foreign dentists in the years to come.
Another reason is the demographic aging of the Dutch population, which has led to an increased demand for more complex dental care services. As people age, they tend to require more dental treatment, such as fillings, crowns, and dentures, which strains the available dental workforce.
Furthermore, the distribution of dentists across the country is uneven, with most of them located in urban areas. The average dentist ratio in the country is 1.820 inhabitants per dentist, but in more rural areas such as Zeeland this ratio is 2.505 inhabitants per dentist.
So the shortage of dentists is more noticeable in towns and cities further away from the big cities.
In short, the limited number of dental students, the number of dentists that will retire, the demographics of the Dutch population, and the distribution of dentists across the country all influence the fact that the Netherlands is facing a shortage of dentists. Only increasing the amount of dental students might have a positive impact in the future, but it won’t completely solve the complex challenges that the Dutch dental world is facing.
Dentists with a foreign diploma are therefore not only necessary but also welcome to take the next step of their career in the Netherlands.