Male and Female Dentists: Is There Really a Difference?

It Turns Out That Gender Discrimination Is a Controversial Topic

“I think not even Jim Du Molin can survive the feminazi backlash from even asking this question!” wrote one male dentist in response to my controversial gender and dental school admissions survey.

He may be right… but I hope not. I’m doing my darnedest to handle this highly-charged topic in an objective fashion. Why cloud the issue? You all have enough passionate opinions already!

“I am a female dentist and the breadwinner in my family. I work more hours than the male counterparts in my practice,” wrote one respondent.

“We should not discriminate based solely on gender, but for every slot in a dental school that is occupied, we are going to need a reasonable output of care from that individual!” said a male dentist.

“What I observe in my area is women practicing fewer hours to commit more time to parenting. Given women’s tendency to practice part-time after becoming mothers, they are not adding to the alleged manpower shortage but helping improve access to care,” opined another male dentist.

But I’ll have more dentist comments for you next week. This week, in an effort to examine gender and dentistry in a neutral manner, I’ve reviewed the ADA’s research on the subject. It’s interesting stuff and I encourage you to check it out! But, in case you don’t, let me summarize the main points. (These numbers all come from the ADA study, which examined data from 1979 through 1999.)

Who works more hours?

  • Overall, men worked more hours.
  • Their 40-hour work weeks were 4 hours longer than the average woman’s 36 hours.
  • A 1995 study found women in private practice working about four hours per week less than men.
  • This was not the case from 1979-1985, when women dentists worked just as many hours as men.

Who works part time?

  • Women are more likely to work part-time.
  • A 1987 study found 12% of female dentists and 4% of male dentists working part-time (under 30 hours per week). The gender gap was 2.5 hours per week.
  • From 1986–1999, the study found more dentists of both genders working part time: 30% of female dentists and 14% of male dentists worked less than 32 hours per week.
  • A 1999 study reported that 34% of female dentists work part-time.

What factors make a dentist work less?

  • Having kids lead to women working less. Women with young children work about 7 hours per week less than other dentists, including men with kids and women without kids.
  • Older dentists work less. This is especially true of men. Dentists above age 55 work about five hours less per week.

What percentage of dentists are female?

  • In 1982, women comprised less than 3% of all dentists. By 1997, 13% of dentists were female. This will rise to 25% within the next 10 years.
  • In 2002, 40% of dental school students were female. (In 1982, it was only 24%.)
  • Accordingly, in the not-too-distant future, we can anticipate a profession that is roughly 60% male and 40% female.

Who works more than 42 hours a week?

  • Around 30% of men and 16% of women dentists.
  • Among younger dentists, it’s 32% of men and 20% of women.

Whew! Can you fit any more numbers in your head? Well, I hope so, because I tracked down some additional facts for you! These are courtesy of Dr. Lynn Carlisle.

  • Before 1970, almost all American dentists were male. (This was not the case in other parts of the world.)
  • Women’s liberation and birth control changed all that.
  • By 2003, 17% of practicing US dentists were female. Among new dentists, that number increases to 35%.
  • 97.7% of Utah’s dentists are male. (Wow!)
  • Between 1995 and 2005, the number of female dental school students increased by 32%, while the number of male students dropped by 2%.

It is also expected that the US will soon face a shortage of dentists. Why does Dr. Carlisle think this is the case?

  • Baby Boomer dentists will retire.
  • Dental school enrollment dropped in the 1980s.
  • Many female dentists choose to work part-time.
  • Dissatisfied dentists of both genders are leaving the profession.

I hope this provides some valuable context for this question. Stay tuned next week to find out what dentists think! In the meantime, feel free to post your comments below.

About Jim Du Molin

+Jim Du Molin is a leading Internet marketing expert for dentists in North America. He has helped hundreds of doctors make more money in their practices using his proven Internet marketing techniques.

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