It is not a question of saying 'Ahhhh...' for the dentist, but "Awwww". Dentists complain they are "a forgotten profession"

Dentists to mount protest (for first time) outside parliament

Say profession going through greatest ever labour crisis

Portugal’s dentists are set to demonstrate outside parliament tomorrow, with a litany of woes that they want to see corrected.

At least 300 dentists are expected at the event, called by the SMD (syndicate of medical dentists) which tells Lusa it is “time to act and fight” for the rights of a profession “forgotten by the government” and “going through the greatest labour crisis” since it existed in Portugal.

Among ‘demands’ is one that to anyone outside the profession appears to make no sense: as Lusa explains, protestors will be demonstrating to “prevent the opening of yet another course”.

Why? This is the nub of the issue: Portugal currently has around 800 inhabitants for every dentist; by 2025 this number will reduce to around 650 inhabitants to every dentist (when the World Health Organisation recommendation is 1,800 inhabitants to every dental professional).

In other words, there is already a ‘glut of dentists’ (resulting in around 600 emigrating every year because they cannot find a job – many of these having just left university),  and to pile on the agony, the profession as such does not exist within the State health service.

“If a Portuguese person needs a dental emergency during the night or at the weekend, if they can’t afford it (and go to their local A&E department), there is no dentist  (…) either in the hospital or in the health centre“, explains SMD president João Neto.

“Dentists are always seen as a privileged class, and they are not”, Neto continues. “There are colleagues turning to the Food Bank; there are homeless colleagues – there are situations of very serious precariousness…”

Some dentists work 50 hours a week, but earn only €300, he told Lusa. They work on green receipts, for temporary labour companies; they are ‘hired’ by companies offering health plans that do not end up delivering what they offer.

In fact, João Neto painted a miserable picture of a profession that has seen its practitioners ‘double in 10 years’, due to university courses that are not geared to the reality of the market.

There is no regulation (another demand to be voiced in tomorrow’s protest) which has led to the proliferation of ‘misleading advertising over social media’ which hoodwinks a number of Portuguese citizens into carrying out work which can go horribly wrong.

Says Lusa, “João Neto said that several professionals say they receive many patients who have gone to these organisations and returned “with irreversible, very serious treatment situations”.

All in all tomorrow’s protest means to draw attention to the dentists’ precarious, unsatisfactory lot in Portugal, and encourage changes for the better, for everyone concerned.

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