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Dental Field Becoming More Female, More Diverse

Posted on July 12, 2019

Study by UAlbany research center found that shift in demographics might improve services for underserved populations

The dental profession is undergoing demographic changes, especially changes in gender distribution. A recent research study conducted by 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.

Key findings include:

  • In 2016, nearly 30 percent of all dentists in the US 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.”

To view the report, visit the CHWS website at http://www.chwsny.org.

For more information about the Oral Health Workforce Research Center, visit www.oralhealthworkforce.org.

Established in 1996, CHWS is an academic research organization, based at the School of Public Health, University at Albany, State University of New York (SUNY). The mission of CHWS is to provide 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. Today, CHWS is a national leader in the field of health workforce studies, and the only HRSA-sponsored center with a unique focus on the oral health workforce.  

This work was supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $449,821. The contents are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, HRSA, HHS, or the US Government.







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