At the moment I am about to leave the presidency of the Ordem dos Médicos Dentistas – Portuguese Dental Association (OMD), elected and serving five consecutive terms, I hereby present a short review and some facts regarding these last 20 years.
Since then it was possible to:
- Increase the population’s accessibility to oral health from 15% in 2001 to more than 60%. To this end, Dentists who graduated from Portuguese Universities (currently registering approx. 11,000 active Dentists in Portugal) proved to be fundamental. And together, we achieved:
- In private practice, integrated in a network comprised of approximately 6000 dental clinics that cover 97% of the national territory;
- With the aid of the Dentist Voucher Programme, financed by the Portuguese Government, 3.5 million Portuguese were able to access dental care;
- And, recently, with the integration of about 120 Dentists in the Portuguese National HealthCare System, a number that is foreseeable to increase to more than 300 in the next three years, in a concept of Universal Health Coverage.
- Achieve full recognition of dentistry as a medical profession, and dentists as “oral health doctors”, expanding their role and intervention in society, by introducing specialties and sectoral competences in dentistry.
- Successfully combating the previously high rate of illegal practice of the profession.
- License and certification of all dental clinics.
- Creation of an Oral Health Observatory, through which it was possible to study and promote both the profession and oral health, using barometers, campaigns and studies, providing public visibility and also revealing to be proficient in promoting more effective public health policies.
- Integrating the concept of Oral Health/General Health in the Portuguese society, an essential contribution towards life quality of the Portuguese population.
- Implementing Continuous Training that will tend to be free for all Dentists.
- Deeming OMD’s Congress as one of the largest and most renowned in Europe.
- Implementing specialities and regulating sectoral competences in Dental Medicine.
- During this period, we unquestionably managed to project our profession effectively and made it relevant in the eyes of both society in general and at the level of public decisional platforms.
At a national level, and as President of the Ordem dos Médicos Dentistas, it was also possible to occupy prestigious and prominent positions for all of us:
- At the Presidency of CNOP – National Council of the Professional Orders;
- At the Economic and Social Committee;
- In numerous working groups and dialogue forums with political agents and civil society in general.
At an international level through the active participation in the most representative organisations of the profession, namely:
- In the Presidency and Committees of FDI – World Dental Federation;
- In the Presidency and Committees of CED – Council of European Dentists;
- In the Presidency of FEDCAR – Federation of the European Dental Competent Authorities and Regulators;
- In several partnerships established with Portuguese speaking countries, namely Brazil.
Today, Portuguese Dentists and Dental Medicine benefit from automatic recognition within the European Union and are considered valuable professionals worldwide.
I affirm, with the utmost pride in the profession, that the dental medicine practised in our country extends far beyond the limits of our borders. We are at the forefront of dentistry, recognized as a producer of knowledge and added value for Portugal.
Approximately 96% of OMD’s members practice in the private sector, in a country where, over the years, the public health system has repeatedly forgotten oral healthcare as a fundamental area for public health, which it undoubtedly is. As such, OMD maintained ongoing contacts with public decision-makers, creating a logic of permanent negotiation aiming, on the one hand, to defend the profession, Dentists and the general population and on the other, not less frequently, preventing harmful measures or inadequate policies from being implemented.
As other liberal professions, we have faced very difficult challenges during these last twenty years:
- The economic deregulation of the profession, as a result of globalisation;
- The economic crisis created by the subprime crisis and the subsequent Troika intervention;
- The consequent emigration of Dentists, frequently forced to do so, in the search for employment opportunities, namely in other European countries;
- The excess of pre-graduate education directly interfering in the offer of services;
- And, more recently, the crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, that lead to the suspension of all dental activity during approximately 45 days.
We leave an exemplarily managed and economically robust Order, with a body of employees and collaborators that constitute an enormous added value in the day-to-day of this Institution.
I, therefore, leave, with great pride in this collective journey, and total conviction of having served the Ordem dos Médicos Dentistas and the profession to the best of my effort, and, above all, with a clear conscience of accomplishment during my time in service.
The vast experience acquired will be applied to national or international projects related to health and that deem to be challenging.
I wish my successor, my colleague Miguel Pavão, and all the members of his team, the greatest success for the mandate that is about to begin. I declare my utter availability to collaborate with him and our Order, to the extent considered appropriate, especially in the handover to the next Governing Bodies, that will formally take office on July 18th.
Orlando Monteiro da Silva