Oversupply of Dentists in Canada

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It used to be that a dentist right after graduating would hang out their shingle and not before long there would be lots of patients coming through the door. Dentists did no or very little marketing. In fact, most dental offices were on high floors in professional buildings. Yet dentists were quite busy and most of them were booked 3-9 months in advance.

Today, the picture has changed considerably. Dentists nowadays strive to be in very high exposure retail locations that come at a premium. They spend a lot of time and money on marketing and advertising campaigns. However, most of them are only booked a couple of weeks in advance.

You might be wondering why you’re seeing a dental office sign at every street corner in all cities across Canada. The answer is simple: there are too many of them!

According to the Canadian Dental Association, the population to dentist ratio has been dropping in all the provinces. In Ontario, the ratio dropped from about 1800:1 in 1997 to about 1500: 1 in 2013. In Newfoundland, it fell from about 3700:1 to about 2700:1 over the same period. Those ratios are even lower in urban centres like the GTA, Montreal, and Vancouver.

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Courtesy of the Canadian Dental Association.

Back in the late 90s and early 2000s, it was thought that there will be shortage of dentists in Canada as baby boomer dentists start to retire. However, this has proven not to be the case as the number of dentists entering the market has been far more than the ones exiting especially in the last few years due to the launch of the equivalency process and reciprocal accreditation of Australian, New Zealand, and Irish dental schools.

According to the National Dental Examination Board of Canada (NDEB), 1101 dentists were certified in Canada in 2017. Only 483 dentists graduated from Canadian Dental Schools with a DDS or DMD. 235 dentists earned their dental degrees in the US, Australia, or New Zealand. A staggering 307 dentists were certified through the 3-exam equivalency process up from only 44 in 2011.

By comparison, the number of dentists in the US (population of 323 million) went up from 195,722 in 2015 to 198, 517 in 2017. That’s an increase of about 1400 dentists per year for a nation that’s about 10 times bigger in population than Canada.

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