Future Trends In Dental Human Resources

There are 2,000 dentists in Ontario over 50 years of age according to the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario (RCDSO). There are 1,200 that are over 55. That equates to roughly 150 to 200 retiring dentists per year over the next 10 to 15 years, assuming that most will work until 60 years of age or more. This does not include death and disability rates.

And in the event that baby boomers choose to retire from the profession at a younger age than their predecessors, as seems to be the trend, the number of dentists leaving the profession will increase to 200 to 250 per year.

At my consulting firm, we have concluded that a manpower shortage is looming in Ontario that outweighs the current perception of manpower surplus. And there are other factors that could affect this trend. The typical dental graduate of the past few years has preferred to stay in or around a major urban centre, resulting in an oversupply of dentists in greater metropolitan areas. And the increasing proportion of female dentists that have entered the profession over the past 15 years will impact on the supply and distribution of dentists in Ontario. Female dentists simply do not stay in full-time practise as long as male dentists for a variety of reasons, which may include performing the bulk of the duties at home such as raising children. Several of my female clients have told me that the cumulative effect of these responsibilities can take their toll. I have represented dozens of female dentists in the past and their average age when selling is well below 50.

When all the pluses and minuses are tallied, we have concluded that these trends will result in a reduced number of full-time dentists in Ontario treating patients, which also leads to a positive trend in the ratio of patients per full-time dentist. In other words, there will be more patients per dentists in the future. However, this ratio will be at its greatest outside the major urban areas. According to our clients, this has already created a shortage of dentists in remote or northern regions.

All these equations then raise further questions. Who will replace the dentists that will be leaving practice? How many new entries are there into the profession from dental schools, the NDEB and other provinces? As some of you may know the NDEB has recently changed its examining criteria and there are a limited number of spaces available through only a few programs.

We have performed many different calculations to predict the future of dental practice values as well and the conclusions are very relevant to dentists who are 50 years of age and older. There will be an unprecedented number of dentists leaving full-time practice from 2002 to 2012. This means there will be a glut of practices for sale and if fundamental economics rears its ugly head, practice values will go down.

There is no crisis today so don’t get too concerned just yet. This process will take time. The beginning of this cycle of retiring baby boomers will not begin to develop until the year 2002. After that, I predict that the volume of retiring dentists each year will grow substantially. At that time, we may find that the graduation rates are too low to support the need for new dentists.

Ontario Dentist  – October 1999