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Dental Field Diversification

ALBANY, N.Y. (Aug. 13, 2019) — The dental profession is undergoing demographic changes, especially in gender distribution, according to a recent research study by the Oral Health Workforce Research Center (OHWRC) at the School of Public Health’s Center for Health Workforce Studies (CHWS).

female dentist
A study by the Center for Health Workforce Studies at the School of Public Health found that a shift in demographics might improve services for underserved populations.

In collaboration with the American Dental Association and supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the team evaluated differences in dental practice characteristics and service delivery by gender to anticipate changes that might affect the availability of dental services for underserved populations in the future.

Key findings include:

  • In 2016, nearly 30 percent of all dentists in the Unites States were female, versus 24 percent in 2010, which suggests that more women are entering the field.
  • Overall, female dentists were younger and more diverse than their male colleagues. Higher proportions of female dentists were Hispanic, black/African American, or were foreign trained, which contributes to increasing cultural and language diversity among dentists.
  • Female dentists were more likely to complete residency training in general dentistry or in pediatric dentistry than their male counterparts.
  • While the majority of female and male dentists owned their practices, worked full time, and practiced in suburban or urban areas, proportionally more female dentists were employees, worked part time, and practiced in urban areas than male dentists.
  • Female dentists were also more likely to serve younger patients and patients covered by public dental insurance, such as Medicaid, than male dentists.

“Gender diversification of the dental workforce is only one aspect of our changing oral health care delivery systems,” said CHWS Project Director Simona Surdu. “Many factors, including generational differences, will continue to affect practice patterns in dentistry. It is important that we continue to study the oral health workforce in order to ensure an adequate supply and appropriate distribution of dental professionals to meet the needs of the growing and aging US population.”

Established in 1996, CHWS provides timely, accurate data and conduct policy relevant research about the health workforce. The research conducted by CHWS supports and promotes health workforce planning and policymaking at local, regional, state, and national levels.

For more information on the study, visit the report.

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