In any profession, the rate someone can charge is dependent upon supply versus demand. In the Canadian dental industry, the increasing availability of trained dentists is bringing costs down. That’s good for the average Canadian resident, but not so good for those who are hoping to make a good living in the dental field.

Training to be a dentist does not come without a hefty price tag. The University of Alberta’s School of Dentistry has many students graduating with hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Even once they can build a practice, those debts make it difficult for them to earn their anticipated high wages. 

While the rural towns might be in need of services, many young dental professionals are looking for urban living and being part of the action in bigger cities. But what they are finding is a huge disappointment when they discover that the market is already flooded, and that developing their own little niche to tap into might prove more difficult than they had ever expected. 

The Canadian Dental Association reported that in 2014, educational training costs were on the rise, while there was also an increasing oversupply of dentists in most of the big cities around Canada. Likewise, those who are graduating with high debt costs will continue to over-saturate the market. In 2016, studies from the same association revealed that there is one dentist for every 1,622 patients -- over a hundred fewer patients than the year before. 

Those statistics become even less promising for dentists wanting to tap into big city clientele. The need for dental professionals in rural cities is about three times that of urban areas, but not many dentists are ready to hit small-town Canada to find work. The whole situation has led to high competition in urban areas and scarce care for rural communities. 

Dentists wanting to make a profit, or even just have enough to pay their insurance and cover their student loan costs, are typically resorting to working around the clock, offering weekend and emergency hours or staying open late, to beat out the competition. For the first time in history, dentists are having to target the consumer, instead of the consumer looking for a professional. 

Many are finding themselves having to market and advertise their practices online and using tactics like SEO to get more clients. Offering incentives, online scheduling, and other amenities are imperative tactics for a dentist to rise above their fellow dentists and to find their way in a competitive atmosphere.

Young dentists are finding that it is smarter to buy an established firm than to start up a new one. Buying into the reputation of a dental office with a place in the market makes better sense than trying to start anew. This means newer dentists are always on the lookout for professionals who are ready to retire; it is easier to step into someone else’s shoes than trying to stamp out the competition as a new dentist. The average dentist who starts up their own practice has an average of two to three years of making absolutely zero revenue and barely enough to cover their bills. 

For those Canadian dentists who are lucky enough to acquire someone else’s established practice, there is already cash flow to build off of, which means that you can start in the black instead of the red. But buying an established dental office in Canada also comes at a high price. The average cost of buying an active operation costs upward of over a million dollars, and prices can climb even higher in places like Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Toronto. 

Another factor that is negatively impacting even the best dental clinic in Winnipeg, is the supply and demand market are corporate-owned dental establishments who hire professionals to fill spots. They are attempting to buy up independently-owned practices, which is making it even less likely for a new dentist to find a practice to purchase, obtain the capital to buy or have the means to pay on any loans they have to take out.

Never before has there been such an abundance of dental professionals around big Canadian cities. While it’s a blessing for patients looking for care, it is becoming a curse for those graduates who already have enormous student loan debts, and no way to earn money without putting in the time and effort of working for free for years at a time.