You can currently study dentistry in three cities: Amsterdam, Nijmegen and Groningen. These study programmes accept around three hundred students each year, but according to calculations a hundred more are needed to satisfy current demand. According to Erasmus MC, expanding the number of places in the current study programmes is not a good idea, as the KNMT registration shows that many dentists practise in their own region after training, making the shortage of dentists in the southwest of the Netherlands even more acute.

Working group investigates the options

A meeting took place between the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, Erasmus MC and the three existing dentistry study programmes in January. The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport and the capacity body that advises the government on the number of required healthcare study programme places also attended the meeting.

During the meeting, they decided to establish a working group involving the current providers (Amsterdam, Nijmegen and Groningen) and Erasmus MC to ‘investigate the regional situation’. The working group also needs to address the issue of whether there is a regional distribution problem as well as a national shortage. A Ministry of Education, Culture and Science spokesperson stated that the working group aims to present its conclusions before the summer.

Dentists sound the alarm

The idea of establishing an independent dentistry study programme in Rotterdam has been around for some time but became more relevant after dentists sounded the alarm about regional dentist shortages. Eppo Wolvius, professor of Oral Diseases at Erasmus MC, initiated the lobby for the new study programme. According to the oral and maxillofacial surgeon, 30 to 40 per cent of children in Rotterdam do not visit the dentist, which has many consequences for their oral health now and in later life. That’s why he argued in favour of an independent dentistry study programme in Rotterdam in cooperation with TU Delft during the visit of Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf (Ministry of Education, Culture and Science) in February.

Pedro van Gessel, EUR senior advisor public affairs, corroborated the crisis: “An Amsterdam dentist has an average 1,200 patients, whereas one in Zeeland has some 2,500 patients. So there is a shortage both regionally and in absolute figures, certainly if you also consider that many dentists are reaching retirement age. Bringing in dentists from abroad is also not a viable solution, as that causes a shortage elsewhere.” Van Gessel stated that some 20 million euro is needed to establish the study programme.

CDA argues for expansion

There is also support in the House of Representatives for more dentists for the southwest of the Netherlands. House of Representatives member Joba van den Berg (CDA) has written an initiative memorandum on improving oral care in the Netherlands. Van den Berg is not necessarily appealing for an additional study programme but does want to expand the number of study programme places and introduce a more attractive relocation policy to reduce the shortage of dentists in the southwest of the Netherlands. The memorandum is scheduled to be discussed in the House committee in May.

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