Reader question: I have read several Connexion articles about doctor shortages, but what about dentists? Where we live (Creuse) there are not enough. Are things being done to improve this?
You are correct that the problem of so-called medical deserts – areas with a shortage of doctors – also applies to dentistry.
There are 42,000 dentists in France, or 62 for every 100,000 inhabitants, according to the latest report by the ONDPS, which studies the demographics of healthcare professionals.
This is low compared to neighbouring countries such as Spain (84), Germany (86) and Italy (87).
The situation is much worse outside of major cities.
Four regions have a chronic shortage of dentists: Normandy (42), Centre-Val de Loire (44), Hauts de France and Bourgogne Franche-Comté (48).
As with doctors, shortages are partly caused by the numerus clausus, a cap on medical student numbers that was abolished in 2020.
The objective set by the profession in 2021, and adopted by the government, is to train 14% more dentists in the period 2021-25 than in the previous five years.
Measures have also been taken to address regional inequalities.
The contrat d’engagement de service public is a monthly stipend for dentistry students who agree to practise in an area with shortages for at least two years from the end of their studies.
It was created for medical students and extended to dentistry in 2012.
Dentists who set up in “very underserved” communities are also eligible to receive €25,000 to help them get up and running.
Those who are already practising in such areas can receive three annual payments of €3,000 each if they continue to do so.
Also, in 2021 the government announced the creation from the 2022 academic year of eight new university dentistry departments, in Amiens, Caen, Rouen, Dijon, Besançon, Grenoble, Poitiers and Tours.
These towns were selected as they are in areas suffering from a lack of dentists.
The ONDPS report clearly showed that parts of the country where there is no university dentistry department are far more likely to suffer from shortages: these areas are home to 30% of the French population, but only 22% of dentists.