Dental Freelancers

Some find going to the dentist traumatic. In Morocco, the experience could be especially so, because the dentist may turn out never to have gone to dental school.

The National Association of Dentists in Morocco has warned that over 3,000 people illegally practice dentistry in Morocco without official qualifications— a number almost equal to the number of government-licensed dentists. Phony dentists may not only lack the skills of their professional counterparts, but they may also lack medical knowledge. Some use bleach as disinfectant—or nothing at all. After a 12-year-old boy died of sepsis after surgery from a fake dentist, Morocco’s National Dental Association called on the Moroccan government to crack down on unlicensed practitioners. But the practice remains widespread and a law to criminalize illegal dentistry has languished in Parliament since 2019.

Informal dentistry is a tradition in Morocco, which mutes government efforts to end it. In addition, qualified dentists often charge four times their informal counterparts, making mainstream dentistry too expensive for the average Moroccan.

The country only opened its first school of dentistry in 1981, and Morocco has fewer than 5,000 licensed dentists for a population of 37 million. Those dentists are often concentrated in urban areas, leaving unlicensed practices as the only option in many areas.

The government aims to ensure that there is at least 1 dentist for every 5,000 residents by 2025. Yet, the Moroccan dental industry is heavily affected by Covid-19 quarantine restrictions, low salaries, and high tax rates. Many Moroccans may not see much improvement in dental care for some time. And that will truly be a pain.

This article is part of the series Mezze: Assorted Stories from the Middle East.

Will McChesney

Intern, Middle East Program