Brace yourselves! There's a dentist shortage in Saudi

Published February 8th, 2015 - 08:11 GMT

The Kingdom suffers from a shortage of dentistry research centers and Saudi dentists account for just ten percent of dentists in the country, Alsharq daily reported.

Observers believe the field of dentistry in the Kingdom has failed to keep up with the latest developments. 

Another problem is the increasing number of medical errors committed by dentists, who are predominantly expatriates.

Dr. Arwa Al-Sayed, head of periodontal surgery and dental implant department at Prince Sultan Medical and Military City, said the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties (SCHS) is planning to ban doctors who are not licensed by the commission from performing dental implant operations.

The reason for the ban is the fact that most dentists in the private sector are not Saudi nor are they qualified in the field, said Al-Sayed, who is also director of Saudi Dental Implant Fellowship Program.

The majority of expatriate dentists have taken intensive training courses in the field while dental implant operations need high skills and qualifications.

“Patients are deprived of the services of highly-skilled and qualified Saudi dentists who work in the public sector. Those doctors can’t work in the private sector because laws don’t allow it,” Al-Sayed said.

As an experienced doctor, she has seen many patients who are the victims of private-sector doctors. Most of the patients need urgent dental implant operations.

For every 100 patients, the health sector needs a dentist in order to meet the increasing demand.

However, the dentistry field has improved over the past decade as more and more young Saudi men and women graduated from local dentistry colleges.

“Those new graduates in the field have not reached the level where they can be described as highly-qualified. 

Many of them who traveled abroad to complete higher studies have returned to the country armed with knowledge and strong passion for research and development in the field,” Al-Sayed said.

The Kingdom does not have enough researchers and research centers in the field and usually help is sought from overseas centers in countries that have seen major developments in the field.

Dr. Raed Al-Sadhan, associate professor of Dentistry School, King Saud University, talked about the risks of dental implant operations.

“Unqualified dentists can cause destructive consequences to patients. A botched operation can have major negative effects on vital organs in the mouth and eventually lead to sinusitis and gingivitis,” Al-Sadhan warned.

He recommends that patients with dental problems select the right doctor who is licensed and is specialized in dental implant surgery.

“Patients shouldn’t pick a dentist because he offers inexpensive services. They need to choose qualified doctors and ignore the medical expenses because a medical bill isn’t the criteria for selecting the right doctor,” he said.

“They should not forget that a cheap operation that goes wrong can cost double the initial amount to fix it. 

Moreover, botched dental implant operations are costly, harder and cause more pain to patients,” he added.

Dr. Muhammad Al-Obaida chairman of board of directors, Saudi Dental Society (SDS), talked about the prevalent dental problems in the country.

“Dental caries is widespread and 90 percent of cases examined have it. We really need to design a national strategy with the participation of public and private sectors to face this alarming danger,” Al-Obaida said. 

The situation is so dire that the educational activities and awareness campaigns SDS offers every year are not enough to handle it.

Dr. Badran Al-Omar, president of King Saud University, agreed that more efforts needed to be exerted to intensify the university’s dental research programs.

Dentistry as a field has seen rapid development and discoveries over the past few years. The new dental hospital, which will open soon, is equipped with state-of-art research facilities and equipment. 

It will have 472 dental clinics and nine floors. Specialized doctors will be able to play a more effective role in producing new dental research and achieving greater success in the field.


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