Pakistan has a total of more than 40 dental colleges registered by Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC). Out of which, 31 are privately owned and 10 are run by the government. In 2018, around 2200 dental students graduated from these colleges. The hefty tuition fees of these colleges are mostly paid by the hard earned money of parents. After 4 years of education and 1 year of house job period, the dental students finally step into ‘professional life’. New dentists have huge expectations to get a job as soon as they have degree in their hands. So what does the future holds for them?
Imbalance in demand and supply of dental professionals
The main reason behind unemployment is an imbalance in demand and supply of dental professionals. According to WHO recommendations, dentist-population ratio is 1:75,000 for developing countries. But in Pakistan, this ratio is 1:111,305,811 only. The sole factor is inequality in distribution of dentists. In rural areas, the dentist population ratio is very less as compared to urban areas.
Lack of available dental jobs in government sector
Another reason behind this crisis is the lack of available dental jobs in government sector. The culture of Nepotism causes for hard working and skilled dentists to find a good job especially in government departments.
Growing ‘quacks mafia’
The privately owned clinics by dentist, is also not feasible. In urban areas, there is already a saturation of dental markets. With around 40,000 non-qualified dental practitioners or quacks present, the ‘quacks mafia’ seems to be growing more than ever. In rural areas, private clinics are not viable because of less awareness for oral health among the rural population.
Financial and mental constraints
The major impact of unemployment is financial constraints. Many recent dental graduates are already overburdened with student’s loans, others have to support their poor families. Unemployment also comes with its fair share of psychological effects. The suicidal reports of dental students are not hidden from anyone.
Moving away from home country
Hence many graduates opt to migrate abroad for dental practice. Dental graduates are now preferring to opt for USA or UK, causing a brain drain from Pakistan as well.
Increase in demands of ‘Doctor Bride’
Many of the female dental graduates prefer to stop practicing due to unemployment. This leads to a surge in demand of “doctor bride”. Thus, the new chapter of married life comes with a stop on their careers’ progress.
Changing field of career
With lack of dental jobs, many dental students are bound to change their career paths. While many of them prefer to teach part time in schools as biology teachers, other start working in call centres.
Here are couple of suggestions that counter this persistent issue:
- Increasing job opportunities in rural areas in order to balance the concentration of dentists in urban and rural areas.
- Dental colleges who do not have all requirements of Pakistan Medical and Dental Council should be closed down.
- Government should plan to create new posts for dental graduates in government hospitals and in Primary Health Centre. Induction for these posts should be made solely on merit.
- Public health programs should be planned to provide dental health education to increase oral health awareness especially among the rural population.
- ‘Quack Mafia’ should be eradicated at utmost priority
- In order to stop brain drain, it should be implemented that they first complete dental practice of two or three years in Pakistan
- Proper career counselling should be done of students in dental colleges. They should be informed of all post-graduation programs available in dentistry and in other medical related fields, such as public health etc. This can help them to assess their skills and direct them accordingly in future.
- Exact statistics should be conducted by Government to ensure that the supply and demand chain of dental manpower are in accordance with each other
If appropriate steps are not taken on time, then the issue of dental manpower can have a negative impact on the integrity of dental profession. Hence it is high time that government take suitable steps to control this oversupply of dentists and save the future of young generation.
-written by Dr Muattar Hanif