Availability of dentists and consultations with dentists

Dental health is an integral part of general health and quality of life. Access to dental care was often disrupted during the pandemic, with over one-fourth of people in the EU reporting unmet needs for dental care in spring 2021 and spring 2022 (Eurofound, 2022[1]).

Dentists play a key role in both preventing and treating oral health problems. In 2020, there were between 0.4 and 1.3 dentists per 1 000 population across EU countries (Figure 7.14.). Greece, Cyprus, Portugal, Lithuania and Bulgaria had the highest numbers of dentists per capita, although the numbers in Greece and Portugal are over-estimated as they include all dentists licensed to practice.

Between 2010 and 2020, the number of dentists per capita increased or remained stable in most EU countries, except in Greece, Sweden and Denmark where it decreased at least slightly. The number of dentists per capita rose particularly strongly in Portugal, Lithuania, Romania and Spain (Figure 7.14.).

While there is no general consensus about how often people should visit a dentist, the recommendation in several countries is that children should have a visit at least once a year to prevent and treat any problem quickly, while adults without problems may wait as long as two years. On average across EU countries, people had 1.3 consultations with a dentist in 2019, but this number dropped by 15% during the first year of the pandemic in 2020. The drop was particularly marked in the Netherlands (which nonetheless still had a relatively high number of dentist consultations during the pandemic), Spain and Hungary (Figure 7.15).

The higher number of consultations in the Netherlands before and during the pandemic can be explained by the strong preference of people for regular dental check-ups arising from well-established programmes to promote prevention of oral health issues at a young age. The National Dutch programme “Keep your Mouth Healthy” provides oral health education to children and is considered one of the best practices in Europe. Several other European countries have similar programmes of oral health promotion and prevention among children and adolescents.

The extent of public coverage for dental care costs can also partly explain some of the cross-country variations in the number of dentist consultations (see indicator “Extent of health care coverage”). In Romania for example, only 6% of dental care spending is publicly funded. By contrast, in France and Germany, more than 60% of dental spending is publicly covered. In the Netherlands, while dental care is not comprehensively covered in the benefit package for adults, voluntary health insurance plays an important role in covering dental costs.


[1] Eurofound (2022), “Fifth round of the Living, working and COVID-19 e-survey: Living in a new era of uncertainty”, https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/publications/report/2022/fifth-round-of-the-living-working-and-covid-19-e-survey-living-in-a-new-era-of-uncertainty#tab-01.

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