In the run-up to the start of the Belgian school year, French-speaking orthodontists have been overwhelmed with demand for consultations, according to Belgian media RTL Info.
It can now take as long as a year and a half to get an appointment with an orthodontist and the industry does not have enough specialists to deal with the demand. Mohssin El Hajjaji, president of the French-speaking Union of Orthodontists in Belgium (UFOB), and a practitioner in Verviers, says that the situation has been getting steadily worse for several years.
“You should know that there is a shortage of practitioners, dentists specialising in orthodontics, and unfortunately this shortage in the coming years is not likely to improve when you hear the number of candidates who will be in training,” El Hajjaji explained.
The French-speaking union is sounding the alarm for the years to come. “If there aren’t more practitioners who are trained in universities, it will be very difficult for the population to be able to benefit from orthodontic care,” the president warned.
In January, one orthodontic centre in the city of Mons, Wallonia warned that they had lost around half of their trained professionals, leaving just three dentists to deal with up to 30 patients a day as well as manage after-care.
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El Hajjaji told RTBF that within the next 10 years, around 30% of Belgium’s current practitioners will retire and, at the current level, there are not enough young professionals to replace them. Becoming an orthodontist typically requires 5 years in dentistry school and an additional four years master's degree in orthodontics.
UFOB lists 199 registered French-speaking orthodontists across the country, 16 of which are in Brussels. In total, there are believed to be around 500 orthodontists in Belgium, with around half of them located in Wallonia and Brussels.
To improve the situation, El Hajjaji has suggested that universities should accept more candidates for specialised orthodontics training, increasing the level of digitisation in the industry, and encouraging more oral hygienists to join the orthodontic practices as assistants.