Fall/Winter 2005 Table of Contents
International Partners in Health
Delegation Gets a First-Hand Look at
China’s Growing Oral Health Awareness

Trip organizers included Mr. H. Kendall Beacham, Assistant Dean for Continuing Dental Education; Dr. Harmon J. Cooper, '67, Associate Professor of Cariology and Comprehensive Care; and Dr. Daniel Yang, a member of the board and Past President of the Chinese-American Dental Association of Greater New York.

The NYU/Chinese-American Dental Association delegation visited clinics at Beijing's Capital Medical University Colelge of Stomatology, Chengdu's West China Medical University College of Stomatology, and Shanghai's Second Medical University College of Stomatology. Photos by Dr. Richard Lee.

Patients relax in plush leather armchairs as they await appointments at Beijing’s private United Family Hospital, where dental services and fees are comparable to those in private American practices. Across town, Capital Medical University College of Stomatology provides a comparably high level of care, although patients there may wait hours in crowded clinics for their publicly subsidized treatment.

During a visit last August to dental schools and clinics in Beijing, Shanghai, and Chengdu, China, an NYU Continuing Dental Education Program addressed the coexistence of such private and public facilities in a country that previously had only centrally planned public health care. Meeting with their Chinese colleagues, the delegation of faculty, alumni, and members of the Chinese-American Dental Association of Greater New York learned that growing public oral health awareness is gradually leading to a rising demand for dental care and a greater variety of facilities and treatment options. These changes have been brought about by more open public discussion of oral health issues, and by growing personal incomes that enable many urban Chinese to afford a higher standard of living, and with it, an enhanced level of personal health.

The visitors saw many signs of a rising dental IQ, such as more children wearing orthodontic braces and more people paying out of pocket for esthetic dentistry. They also learned that China’s public health facilities range from small rural clinics with decades-old dental chairs to the big city world-class dental schools and hospitals they visited, which care for patients from all over China and handle an enormous number and variety of cases. A small network of private practitioners has emerged in the past several years to provide an alternative to the often-crowded public facilities, and it is expected to continue to grow.

China’s government faces a number of challenges as it tries to keep pace with the public’s rising oral health awareness. First, there is an urgent need to train more dentists to expand its current base of approximately 38,000 licensed practitioners for 1.3 billion people. The government also must develop and apply uniform regulations and standards of care to both the nascent private practice sector and the huge public health system. Some Chinese dentists have expressed the need for a stronger, more uniform system of malpractice insurance - a growing concern as patients become increasingly savvy about their rights.