Dental News: Is The Field Becoming More Diverse?

Trusted Health Products

Proof that the dental profession is undergoing demographic changes - especially in gender distribution – appeared in a new study. The Oral Health Workforce Research Center (OHWRC) at the University at Albany’s Center for Health Workforce Studies (CHWS), in collaboration with the American Dental Association, 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. In 2016, nearly 30 percent of all dentists in the U.S. 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,” says 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 U.S. population.”

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