Dentistry has seen significant changes in the demographics of those who practice, particularly when it comes to gender, according to the Oral Health Workforce Research Center (OHWRC) at the University at Albany’s Center for Health Workforce Studies (CHWS).
Collaborating with the ADA, the OHWRC studied 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. According to their analysis:
- In 2016, 29.8% of all dentists in the United States were female, versus 24.5% in 2010, suggesting 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 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 most 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.
- In 2016, female dentists spent fewer average hours per week in the office (34.3 versus 35.7) and hours per week treating patients (30.4 versus 31.4) than male dentists.
- Female dentists were 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 healthcare delivery systems. Many factors, including generational differences, will continue to affect patterns in dentistry,” said CHWS project director Simona Surdu.
“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,” Surdu said.
The study, “A National Study of the Practice Characteristics of Women in Dentistry and Potential Impacts on Access to Care for Underserved Communities,” was published by OHWRC.