Plugging the dentistry gap

Serving one’s community by becoming a doctor is not an easy dream for Hong Kong students to achieve.

Limited by limited enrollments and a choice of just two medical schools and one school with a Chinese medicine program among Hong Kong’s eight subsidized universities, many students are looking to accrue academic experience in the mainland. However, they face obstacles once they return to Hong Kong to work.

The shortage of doctors in Hong Kong’s public health system is obvious.

At the same time, the government’s proposal to allow doctors who have trained overseas to work freely in Hong Kong has been plagued by administrative structural delays and political obstacles over the years.

In dentistry, the problem is just as serious.

Ranked third in the QS world university rankings by subject 2021, the city’s only dental school, the faculty of dentistry at the University of Hong Kong, has only 50 undergraduate students and no more than 20 postgraduates each year.

But according to health and manpower surveys conducted by the Department of Health, there were 2,341 dentists registered with the Dental Council of Hong Kong in 2018 – only 168 more than the last survey, which was conducted in 2015.

The school is now offering a solution with its new taught postgraduate programs and hopes to train 100 more graduates in the new academic year.

These programs are now open for application, welcoming local and overseas trained dentistry undergraduates.

The Dentists Registration Ordinance stipulates that all dental graduates who received their training outside Hong Kong must pass the Dental Council’s licensing examination before registering with it.

To take the examination, the graduate must be a dental degree holder who has satisfactorily completed no less than four years of full-time training of a type approved by the council.

HKU’s solution covers all these bases. Offering 10 programs in eight disciplines in the 2020/2021 academic year, the school’s newly developed Institute for Advanced Dentistry Multi-Speciality Clinic offers another way for prospective dental students to receive clinical training they need to prepare them for their careers.

A major initiative of the faculty is to educate and train dental specialists in Hong Kong.

The IAD-MSC is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and provides training for qualified dentists in eight dental disciplines: endodontics, implant dentistry, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics, pediatric dentistry, periodontology and prosthodontics and dental public health.

Under the supervision of clinical experts, resident dentists will acquire knowledge of advanced dental treatments.

“The postgraduate programs offer students ample opportunities to acquire subject specialist knowledge,” said Cynthia Yiu, the faculty’s associate dean (taught postgraduate education).

“Being trained at the new establishment, IAD-MSC, students will be well prepared for the world of modern dentistry and will be able to deliver excellent dental care to the patients.”

For dental students trained overseas, it could be a transitional experience that helps them get a foothold into local practice.

Thomas Flemmig, the faculty’s dean, said the programs aim to address the considerable shortage of dental specialists in Hong Kong and the region.

The IAD-MSC is also extending its objective to providing affordable advanced dental treatment to those with severe and complex oral conditions, serving as a referral center for practicing dentists from public and private clinics.

Through teaching, clinical research and oral health innovation, the faculty’s long-term goal is to improve access to high-quality advanced dental care, said Flemmig.

“The IAD-MSC contributes to the faculty’s vision and to deliver impact through innovation, interdisciplinary work and internationalization.”


(This article was published at The Standard on March 16, 2021: Education: Plugging the dentistry gap )

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