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Just a moment ago, I was Googling for dental offices near my office in Burlington; the search returned 19 offices. Then I searched for Tim Hortons, and 20 locations were found.

Interestingly, when I had my first dental clinic soon after I graduated from the University of Toronto Faculty of Dentistry in 1990, my office was the only one on Bayview Avenue in Richmond Hill within a few blocks. There were about 3 Tim Hortons restaurants in the area then. The growth of dental clinics outpaces the growth of Tim Hortons in the last 31 years.

We could interpret that the demand for dentistry has increased faster than the need for coffee from Tim Hortons over the last 30 years. Or we could say that there is an oversupply of dentists nowadays.

We know that Tim Horton’s business model puts more restaurants in areas with high demand or growth. They have professionals and specialists to do research and study on this matter. Not so among dentists; we do not have the financial means to hire experts to do the demographic studies and find out what the individual dentists are making in the areas in question before setting up new dental clinics there.

I doubt that patients see their dentists as often as they visit Tim Hortons in a year. I do not believe that the general population is more educated about seeing dentists regularly. I know that there are a lot more dentists per capita nowadays than 30 years ago.

Back in 1990, when I was the only dentist on Bayview Avenue in my area. Within a few years, I had about 4000 patient charts in my file cabinets. At that time, no dentists had a website and used social media platforms for marketing. I did not need to do much advertisement in the newspaper or delivery flyers to the neighbours. I was overwhelmed with the number of patients I treated in a typical 12 hours super-long day during the weekdays and 8 to 9 hours on the weekends. I felt stressed out because of the confinement in my office for many hours a day, the constant struggle with being on time for my patients and yet being able to deliver high-quality treatments for my patients. The stress level was skyrocketing when facing phobic and anxious patients or unexpected issues with some of the treatments I rendered not too long ago. I was getting all the stressors listed below:

  • Confinement
  • Isolation
  • Long hours
  • Lack of exercise
  • Stress of perfection
  • Economic pressure
  • Staffing pressure
  • Time pressure
  • Compromise treatment frustration
  • Patient anxiety
  • Processing a good dentist’s personality:
    • Compulsive attention to details
    • Extreme conscientiousness
    • Careful control of emotions
    • Unrealistic expectations
    • A marked dependence on individual performance and prestige

I was working seven days a week with extended hours each day. I did not have time to continue education, get involved with friends, and recharge my mental and physical health.

I would argue that there was a undersupply of dentists at that time in Richmond Hill then.

Because I was so stressed out, I sold my practice eventually and became a dentist associate in a smaller city in southwest Ontario for 11 years. I learned how to live a life, cope with stress in dentistry, improve social and leadership skills, rebuild my physical and mental health, and hone my dental knowledge.

Fast track forward to 2019, I started Affinity Dental Care from scratch at the corner of Walker’s Line and Rockwood Drive in Burlington. It has been three years, and I only have a few hundred patients despite spending money to do much more marketing like what all the dentists do – my website, social media exposure, and advertisements in newspapers once in a while. I only work 8 hours a day and five days a week.

I am not as busy as my previous office in Richmond Hill, but I feel more gratified with my profession. I am happier with far less stress. What has happened is that I am seeing fewer patients a day, and I can focus more on each patient on their diagnoses, through treatment plannings to providing the care. I am on schedule all the time, with support from my incredibly skilful staff and hygienists. I am more knowledgeable and confident in my dentistry and handling of anxious patients. I have a better social network and more time for professional development and involvement with sports.

So are we having too many dentists in Burlington? My answer would be no, and I think there is just the right amount of dentists per capita nowadays.

23 Sep, 2020

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