According to data from the Portuguese Dental Association, at the end of 2021, the Portuguese Dental Association (OMD) had 12,235 professionals with active enrolment and working in Portugal, 5.1% more than in the previous year.

Compared with 2010, when there were 6,905 professionals, there are 5,330 more dentists, according to the study "Números da Ordem", which reflects "the numbers, estimates and trends in the profession”.

Working abroad

According to the study, 1,819 dentists (12.9% of the total) had their enrolment suspended at the end of 2021, 8.4% more than in 2020, the main reason for this situation being emigration (67%).

Of those who decided to work abroad, the majority chose European countries, namely France (27.6%), the United Kingdom (23.5%), Spain (8.5%), the Netherlands (7%) and Italy (6 .8%).

The study states that the increase in the number of professionals has led to "a sharpening of the ratio of dentists per inhabitant", reaching at the end of 2021, one dentist for 846 people, compared to 884 residents in the previous year.

Saturated market

For the chairman of the OMD, Miguel Pavão, these figures do not come as a surprise: "They are only the continuity and aggravation of a situation that the Order has been giving an alert about from year to year".

"We are in a dramatic situation, with a lot of seriousness", Miguel Pavão told the Lusa agency, alluding to the excess of dentists and the fact that "the market is increasingly saturated".

Having more dentists in Portugal, he said, "does not mean that people have better access or better oral health conditions."

What it does, he added, is that professionals, and medical acts, are less and less valued, and there is an increase in emigration from year to year.

For Miguel Pavão, the ratio of dentists per inhabitants begins "to reach very worrying numbers", with forecasts pointing out that, in 2025, there will be one dentist per 685 residents, when the recommendations of the World Health Organization are of one dentist for every 2,000 inhabitants.

Analyzing its distribution across the country, he stated that there are "too many incongruities and too many disparities across the country."

"If in the Porto Metropolitan Area we already have a ratio of one dentist below 600 inhabitants", in the regions of Baixo Alentejo, Alentejo Litoral and Lezíria do Ribatejo the ratio exceeds one dentist for 2,000 residents.

Trained for “unemployment”

Miguel Pavão regretted that people are being trained for unemployment and said that the OMD has come to warn that the number of Faculties of Dental Medicine (seven) has to be "rationed to the Portuguese reality".

He said that this year another university intended to launch a new degree. "It would be the eighth in Portugal and this is completely unformatted from the European reality", he said, questioning: "Why increase the number of dentists when there is no place for them either in the public or in the private sector".

In 2021, 3,840 students attended the integrated master's degree in dentistry, 69 more than in 2020 and 436 more than five years ago.

According to the study, the weight of women in the profession has been increasing, reaching 61.6% in 2021, the year in which the average age of dentists remained at 40 years.