Japan is known for convenience stores, with a Seven-Eleven or a Family Mart on every corner. But a recent analysis of Japanese businesses revealed one very surprising fact: Japan has even more dentist’s offices than convenience stores.
This strange realization might come as a surprise, even for travelers who have visited Japan in the past. With their subtle signage and stylish lobbies, dental clinics in Japan tend to blend in with their surroundings, and your average shopper is much more likely to notice a Japanese convenience store with its cold drinks and hot food. But take a closer look, and you might notice dentist’s offices everywhere you look. Sometimes it seems like there’s one or two on just about every street, which makes sense since a count in 2021 confirmed 68,024 dental facilities around Japan. Convenience stores might be abundant in Japan, but a 2022 count came in at only (!) 56,919 establishments across the country. For reference, the Japan Post Bank has fewer than 51,000 locations.
So why are dental facilities so incredibly ubiquitous in Japan? Well, you might call it an oversupply of dentists, plain and simple. It all began in the 1960s, when the government realized they were dealing with the opposite problem. Back then, over 30% of Japanese citizens suffered from tooth decay! So the government took action, actively supporting the establishment and development of dental schools to train new Japanese dentists. It was a plan that certainly saw success! For decades, Japan’s dentistry sector boomed, and dentists proliferated. And interest has only just begun to wane in recent years, pushing some of the many dental schools to merge, sometimes with other local universities.
For years, Japan’s dental schools have pumped out newly certified dentists at a rate of around 2,000 a year. For reference, Japan’s neighbor Korea averages just about 800 new dentists a year! And the country only has around 18,738 dental clinics nationwide – although Korean convenience store numbers are much closer to Japan, at around 48,000.
Seeing such a ridiculously high number, it’s hard to believe there’s really enough demand in Japan for so many dental clinics. But Japan’s population is growing older every day, and society as a whole is now in the process of figuring out how to take care of its aging population. With patients over the age of 65 due to increase for the next couple decades, there’s a surprising amount of demand for good dental care. Of course, as with any industry, competition is still fierce among Japanese dental facilities – possibly a major reason for the surprisingly swanky interior design found in many dental offices around Japan. Well, we’re not complaining.
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