National Institute on Aging

Study Documents the Severity of the Racial Gap in Dentistry

A new study, by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, and in the dental department of Bronx-Lebanon Hospital in New York, has found that Blacks and other underrepresented groups continue to make-up a small percentage of the nation’s dentists. Furthermore, dentists from underrepresented groups are unevenly distributed among the population groups they represent.

The authors found that for racial parity to prevail with the Black population, an additional 19,714 African American dentists would be needed. The data also showed that for Blacks who are dentists, members of underrepresented groups represent a larger share of these dentists’ patients than the population of the communities in which the dentists practice.

The authors noted that “we found a daunting shortage of underrepresented minority dentists, which indicates that the cumulative impact of current policy efforts to increase workforce diversity is woefully inadequate – despite initiatives at the local, state and federal level. Dentists who want to serve high-need communities may be unable to do so, given the current economics of the dental practice environment and the lack of oral health parity.”

The study, “Underrepresented Minority Dentists: Quantifying Their Numbers And Characterizing The Communities They Serve,” was published in the December 2016 issue of the journal Health Affairs. It may be accessed here.


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