By Dr. Fass
According to the Health Resources and Services Administration the United States has a current shortage of 10,877 dentists. The numbers paint a picture of general need, but it’s really the rural and inner city areas that are less well served. Additionally, some states have no dental school and have more of a problem attracting dentists.
But changes are happening. The total number of dentists in the U.S. is 202,536, up from 165,659 in 2002, a 22% increase.* We graduated 6745 new dentists in 2022, up 7% from 2018. The prediction for the future is that the current 60.8 dentists per 100,000 population will be at 67 per 100,000 in 2040.
New dental schools are opening over the last decade. In the 1990’s through the early 2000’s schools were closing due to costs of operation, but that trend ended with the closure of Northwestern University Dental School in 2001. Since then the rate of new openings has increased. Over the last 50 years, 22 new schools have opened compared to only 7 that closed.
As with other professions, the dental workforce has aged and the large number of graduates from 1974-1988 are retiring with new dentists replacing them. The share of dentists 55 and older peaked at 40% in 2013-13. Most of the new schools are private and therefore more expensive. Graduates face more school debt while dental income has remained relatively flat. This may affect future applications to schools. And the profession has seen another change. My graduating class size was 87, only 2 of whom were women. Today’s graduates are comprised of 48.4% men and 51.6% women.
This article was published on 09-22-2023 in The Altamont Enterprise.
*Statistics are from the ADA Health Policy Institute research brief , “Projected Supply of Dentists in the United States, 2020-2040″