How US dentistry compares to other countries, per 7 dentists

Although the U.S. may rank below other countries when comparing workforce numbers, it could be ahead in other areas.

The U.S. was recently left out of Insider Monkey's ranking of the top 15 countries for dental health. To create its ranking, Insider Monkey used data on the number of dentistry personnel per 10,000 people from the United Nations Statistics Division. To view the full ranking, click here.

Seven dentists recently spoke with Becker's to share their reactions to the ranking and their insight on the state of oral health in the U.S. and how it compares to other countries.

Note: These responses were lightly edited for clarity and length. 

Question: How do you think the U.S. dental industry compares to other countries? What factors could have contributed to the U.S. being left out of the ranking?

Corey Anderson, DDS. Affordable Dentures & Implants (Bridgeport, W.V.): The availability of dentists is a questionable metric for the quality of dental health. The U.S. could be far ahead or far behind on many different issues with dentistry. This metric does not provide clarity on the issue.

Robert Baskies, DMD (Phillipsburg, N.J.): I question the use of dental personnel per 10,000 people. Who represents dental personnel? A more accurate listing might be DMFT (decayed, missing and filled teeth) [per 10,000 people.] If I needed dental treatment, I would prefer to be seen in the U.S., Sweden, Germany, Japan and Israel. These countries produce most of the cutting-edge research and dental products.  

Michael Davis, DDS. Smiles of Santa Fe (N.M.): The national rankings compare apples to oranges. In most of these other nations listed above the U.S., their dentists often have few, if any, auxiliaries. Many more foreign dentists take all the X-rays, provide hygiene services, record their own records, etc. A great deal is on the dentist’s plate in most of these other countries. As a result, a greater number of dentists are employed per capita in their respective populations.

Another factor is the greatly reduced cost of education offshore. The lower cost of education encourages more dentists into the population.

Michael Perpich, DDS. Northland Smiles (Deerwood and Little Falls, Minn.): I am very shocked and surprised that the U.S. is not in the top ranking. I am sure this ranking has some access component, which I would agree with because access to dental care in most states is terrible. The staff shortage and lower reimbursements have restricted access to care. In my opinion, the dentistry that I have seen in the countries on the list is not that superior to any dentistry that I have seen from U.S. dentists. 

Robert Trager, DDS. Dentist at JFK Airport (New York City): All these countries have a much smaller population than the U.S. The UN stats are from countries with highly developed scientific and educated populations, especially in healthcare. Some of these countries have government subsidies, good-paying healthcare jobs and access to care clinics. The U.S. has many areas with a shortage of dentists and a lack of dental personnel. Many of these countries have dental schools and the public and private clinics have the necessary personnel, but the U.S. doesn't.

Owen Waldman, DMD. Waldman Dental Group (Scottsdale, Ariz.): Based on this, it's difficult to assess how countries rank and how the U.S. compares to them. Accessibility to dental care doesn't necessarily mean that those people are getting quality care. To say a country has the best care based on personnel per 10,000 people is a ridiculous way to measure it. For example, [some people] say socialized medicine gives better access to all, so by this definition, Cuba has better medical care than here. Same with Canada, but when someone with means has a serious issue in Canada, you can bet they are coming to a U.S. hospital so they don't have to wait and can choose to see who they want. 

In conclusion, I think these rankings are meaningless and worthless because they give zero reasons or examples of why the care is supposedly the best, other than access. Of course, there are good and bad dentists everywhere, but I will say there are a few countries on that "best of" list that I have seen work from that have been horrendous. The treatment that was done would 100% be a malpractice/board issue in the U.S., and although I've seen awful work here, too, I couldn't imagine seeing work like that here.  

Marc Wilk, DDS. Tudor City Dental (New York City): We have one of the largest practices in New York and the largest international practice because our office is a short walk from the United Nations [headquarters]. Our patient population is more global than arguably any other in the U.S. 

Our UN patients are located throughout the world as well as headquarters and their overall perspective on dental care is a reluctance to present to dentists in other countries. They feel the protocols and technology in the U.S. are superior to what they have witnessed elsewhere (for example, in Japan, there are almost no intraoral scanners for general dentistry), notwithstanding the ratio of dentists per population outside the U.S. 

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.