Dentist Surplus Forces Freeze on New Colleges in India

Mumbai, India – Unemployment has entered the health sciences sector. With supply outstripping demand and no work for new dental graduates, India has decided to stop all new dental colleges.

The firm stand was taken recently at the general body meeting of the Dental Council of India that grants permission to new institutes. The decision follows requests from several existing colleges that wanted the council to reject fresh proposals for more institutes, as well as the high rate of unemployment among dentists.

India currently has 309 dental colleges, which churn out around 26,000 dentists every year. The count was as high as 30,570 in 2010. In 1970, only 8,000 dental students graduated annually.

“It would be a good idea to consolidate our numbers now and strengthen the existing institutes,” said Dr. Mansing Pawar, DCI member and dean of Government Dental College. An exception could be made for states like those in the northeast that do not have any dental college, he added.

Some estimates suggest that India has 3 lakh dentists, but there is an imbalance in their spread. In 2004, India had one dentist per 10,000 people in urban areas and one dentist per 2.5 lakh people in the rural areas. It was not long ago that the good times were rolling for dentists. It is now, however, estimated that there will be a surplus of more than 1 lakh dentists in India by 2020.

The DCI, on its part, has been trying to trim growth for some time now.

In the last two years, it has only permitted new colleges with an attached medical institute to foray into the dental stream. But that was not enough.

“Mushrooming of dental colleges in the past few years in India has led to unemployment among Indian dentists. Thousands of dentists are coming out every year with very low prospects of jobs,” noted Namrata Dagli in her paper ‘Increasing Unemployment among Indian Dental Graduates’.

Former acting DCI president Dr. Mahesh Verma, who is the current director of the Maulana Azad Dental College, said the time has come to “not vitiate the problem and build on what we have”.

“Over the years, we have created a huge manpower of dentists and job avenues have shrunk. There is not much opportunity for today’s pass outs, except if they want to start their own practice, which too isn’t easy. It needs money, space, infrastructure and the right attitude,” he added.

“Self-practice in urban areas is not very easy due to saturation of the dental market. In rural areas, private clinics are not viable because of low awareness of oral health among the rural population. Dental graduates are facing serious financial constraint. Unemployed dentists are left with no choice but to quit their profession and work in call centres or commit suicide,” added Dagli, in her paper that appeared in the Journal of International Oral Health.