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Opportunities in Dentistry for Women and Minorities

Doors Are Open For Women

In many respects the United States is clearly a world leader; yet the number of women in professional life in this country is disproportionate to the population as a whole. Less than 10% of dentists here are women. This figure stands in marked contrast to that of Russia or Finland, where about 80% of the dentists are women. It is also very different from other nations, such as Greece, France, Sweden, and Holland, where 25% to 50% of the dentists are women.

While the reasons for the sparsity of women dentists in this country are not positively known, one of the significant factors probably has been the belief that the profession is too physically demanding for women. While this widely held assumption is questionable to begin with, it has lost any possible validity in light of the drastic change in dentistry from a two-hand, stand-up profession to a four-hand, sit-down one.

Over the past decade, whatever barriers may have existed to prevent women from entering the field of dentistry have certainly fallen. This is evident from the dental school enrollment figures for women, which show a 400% increase since 1970. Women have responded to favorable opportunities in dentistry. Thus, even though the pool of male applicants decreased dramatically from 1985 to 1990, the pool of female applicants held constant or increased somewhat during this same period. Since 1990, the number of males and females enrolled has basically been stable, with about 2,700 males and 1,600 females making up each first-year class (see preceding graph). For 2000, for example, the number of women enrolled was 1,721 or 39% of all enrollees. This percentage is somewhat higher than that of women enrolled in the past five years. No evidence of sex bias is suggested from the application data of the past five years. Thus it is clear that motivated and qualified women can readily find a place in dental school. The profession is receptive to their admittance and it is likely that women will play a significant role in oral health care in the years to come.

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