Female dentist - women in dentistry

The Growing Role of Women in Dentistry

Over the next few years, the dental industry is expected to witness a diverse change.

Trends in school enrollment and research in the field show an increased number of women in dentistry, progress that doesn’t look to stop anytime soon.

It’s no secret that the industry already employees a large number of women in dentistry.

In fact, it’s estimated that approximately 95% of dental hygienists and dental assistants are women.

But, these aren’t the positions poised for a rising number of female candidates.

As of 2021, only around 36% of dentists were women.

Soon, it’s a number you’ll see on the rise.

Trends in School Enrollment

Though it’s true that nobody can predict the future, you can look at current data and form a pretty solid idea.

In this case, looking at current enrollment in dental schools gives you a pretty good idea of what the future holds in store.

Over the span of 2009-2019, research from the Health Policy Institute found that female dental school graduates increased by 4.6%, rising from 46% to 50.6%.

Even more impressive, between 2010 and 2020, they found the rate of female dentists rose more than 10%.

Over that decade, the ratio rose from 24.1% to 34.5%.

It’s also a trend that’s expected to continue. In fact, by 2040, HPI expects the industry to reach gender parity.

Diversifying the workforce, including women in dentistry, is something the entire industry is working to achieve.

Programs to Encourage Women in Dentistry

More and more, dental institutes and organizations are offering tools to create opportunities for social groups and demographics unaided in the past. 

For example, the American Dental Association (ADA) introduced the ADA Institute for Diversity and Leadership.

This program was created “in an effort to enhance the leadership skills of dentists who belong to racial, ethnic and/or gender backgrounds that have been traditionally underrepresented in leadership roles.”

Both Crest and Oral-B have aided the ADA in this project, which is based upon three major goals: 

  1. To provide underrepresented groups with enhanced leadership skills to help them gain experience
  2. To strengthen their professional network and create long lasting relationships
  3. To create news leadership paths within the profession and communities.

The Institute, which currently requires no fee to apply, is also a great source for finding various dental conferences, useful for networking and developing leadership success.

Another fantastic option is the ADA Accelerator Series.

The goal of the program is simple – to position dentists on the road to faster success.

Here, you’ll find all the information you need to succeed; not just as a dentist, but as someone with a life outside of work.

Sure, they cover dental topics, but that’s only the start.

You’ll find information on family leave, juggling student debt, financial advice, mental and physical health tips, and much more.

The ADA Accelerator Series is particularly designed for women in dentistry, with advice commonly provided by women already within the field.

They also offer a variety of online conferences, webinars, and more.

The Importance of Diversifying

The incoming diversity isn’t intended merely as a progressive step forward within the industry.

It holds real implications for patients across the board.

The hope is that by diversifying the pool of dentists, patients from different backgrounds and ethnicities will feel more comfortable receiving treatments.

Let’s face it – not everyone gets excited to see you for fillings, dental implants, and root canals. In fact, many patients are downright terrified.

But, when people see that their dentist comes from a similar background or ethnicity, they’re more likely to feel at ease with treatments.

Additionally, with a more diverse pool of dentists, patients in underserved and overlooked areas are more likely to gain access to quality care.

The Takeaways

Whether it’s seeing more women in dentistry or a wider range of ethnicities in the field, diversifying the roles of leadership is important.

It’s important not only for anyone looking to become a fellow dentist, but to patients currently lacking access to care.

With programs like those offered by the ADA, it’s becoming easier for people from any background to join the ranks of leadership.

And, as you can see by the growing enrollment in dental schools, it’s trend likely to continue for years to come.


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