Diversity in dentistry is just as important as it is in every other industry. To help the dental industry grow and thrive, it’s important for dentists, dental educators, students, and innovators to come more inclusive and diverse.
However, in recent years, the dental industry has lacked such diversity. For instance, in 2016, only 15.2% of applicants to dental school were from underrepresented minorities. Of that 15.2%, around 50% were women.
Steps towards diversifying the workforce is occurring in places all over the world. So, why is it so important?
Let’s take a minute to explore the effects.
One reason diversity in dentistry matters is because it offers different perspectives and new ideas.
People who come from different communities, cultures and backgrounds help introduce fresh mindsets.
This broad range of ideas promotes growth, with different ideas leading to new ways of thinking, success, and progress.
From the perspective of your dental practice, in particular, having a diverse workforce also helps improve the care you’re able to provide your patients.
This comes from a concept known as “cultural competency.”
Cultural competency is a person’s ability to understand and interact with people from cultures and backgrounds other than their own.
Now, this concept doesn’t mean that every patient needs to see a provider just like them. To successfully have cultural competency, you only need to create an atmosphere in which you & your employees are able to learn more from one another in a cultural sense.
As employees become more familiar with, work with, and collaborate with one another, they’ll naturally develop a better understanding of each other’s backgrounds and values.
This, in turn, broadens their cultural competency, which then improves the treatment of a wider population of patients.
Diversity in education
This concept of diversity in dentistry can also be applied anyone involved in dental education.
When educators have a high cultural competency, they’re better able to spread a wider variety of ideas and concepts to their students. In turn, this promotes an open mind, helping students in the future and keep their perspectives growing as they learn.
Classroom diversity among students is also important. As students work together on various projects or research, they not only increase their own cultural competency, but share it with educators and colleagues alike.
This increased diversity benefits everyone involved in dental education.
When discussing the idea of diversity in dentistry, we all need to recognize that not every dental patient has access in their community to someone who understands the unique issues they face
At the end of the day, being able to provide that sort of understanding for your patients improves their experience and overall level of care.
Ways to improve diversity in dentistry
For the most part, diversity in dentistry can be aided by investing in three different areas:
- Underrepresented Communities
- Research and Best Practices
In terms of education, access to higher education can be harder to find for some groups of people. Fortunately, there exist programs working to change this.
For example, DentaQuest recently made a $150,000 investment to four different universities. Hopefully, this extra funding will be used to help reduce the financial burden for young people who want to pursue a career in a health-related career, but might come from an underrepresented community.
Hopefully, programs like these will help improve diversity in dentistry, especially among younger students.
Others are starting programs focused on identifying talented people in underrepresented communities who have an interest in medical-related careers, and providing them with the tools and guidance they need to achieve their goal. Once again, the hope is that focusing on commonly overlooked communities will bring in more people who otherwise might have limited opportunities.
The third proposed solution is to make sure significant research is being put towards these programs and investments. If the money put towards these programs proves unsuccessful, analysis should be done to find out why, so adjustments can be made to improve the outcome for future programs.
Or, when established programs do well, industry leaders should examine why they worked, and how to best duplicate the results.
Already, some steps have been made in the right direction.
For example, more women are beginning to enter the dental industry in recent years.
Through greater diversity in dentistry, we’ll all be poised to serve our patients in a more effective, compassionate manner.
The dental industry surely appears to be on the right track to creating a more understanding industry by increasing diversity. Now, it’s just important to keep it going.
About First Choice Dental Lab
First Choice Dental Lab is a full-service dental lab with locations in Downers Grove, Il. & Wauwatosa, Wi.
We manufacture & customize quality dental restorations for general dentists. We create smiles based on your needs and budget.
We’re here to help you give your patients a reason to smile!
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