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.

  • Lin (R.D.A.)

    Your previous discussion on the topic of gender discrimination in dental school admissions was quite interesting to say the least, and I couldn’t help but put in my personal vote on the poll that such behavior is atrocious. Not being a dentist myself, I didn’t feel it appropriate to put in my two cents there.

    From your previous discussion: “With too many qualified female applicants, educational institutions have had to adopt higher standards for women in order to maintain an even gender ratio”.

    In this day and age, it’s ludicrous that this type behavior continues to prevail in our society.

  • Laura

    I think we need female dentists. I haven’t been to a dentist in 20 years because when I was a child I had a male dentist was was very bad and did some very bad things to me. This experience scarred me for life and even the thought of going to a dentist makes me cry like a baby and I have lots of tattoos (didn’t flinch once or make a sound)and I have had my tonsils out. So now after 20 years I need to see a dentist and I have my boyfriend keep telling me i need to go. I was crying for a week straight at the thought of just going until I thought about seeing a female dentist and the though of that still scared me but it made me a lot less scared. I’m at least not scared to the point where I’m in tears. My point is we should not discriminate. It is nasty. And we need female dentists for people like me and I know I’m not the only one out there who feels like this.

  • Dr J Kennedy

    Can female dentists pull teeth as well as male counterparts?

  • Jim

    To Dr J Kennedy : only the ones who wear black leather , spike heels and yell ” cum to momma ” !

    Why , back in the day when there were cavities and sugar was still one of the food groups they drilled our teeth without novocain and told us to sit still and stop yelling ….and we liked it ! No woman is capable of this , unless they wear leather and have tatoos that read ” USS Nevada ” .

    Female dentists ? they are all qualified but some have better cleavage to help ease my discomfort . I’d say she needs to consider implants if she wants her practice to blossom .

  • Best Ogden Dentist

    Well, for me it doesn’t matter whether my dentist was a man or a woman. I see a male dentist but all of his dental assistants are female. It seems like the dental assistants spend more time taking care of me when I go in than time spent with the dentist.

    To me, it doesn’t matter either way.

    – Curtis

  • Karim

    I don’t know anything about dentistry, but I have switched dentists quite a lot over the years, I found the female dentists are terrible.. I have to say that male dentists were far better with scale & polish jobs, and did a very good job with fillings too.

    I just came back from a scale a polish from a dentist (female), and I had a look in the mirror, and I’ve still got calculus on my teeth.

    Also I had another xray done on my teeth for no apparant reason, I had xrays done a couple of years ago, and as far as I’m aware my teeth are exactly the same, no reason was given apart from “we just need to have a look at your roots”.. what about my brain? this is the second time I had xrays done on my head. Terrible. Go in with some calcus, walk out with a brain tumor

  • Karim

    Though disclaimer is that I’ve had 2 male dentists and 2 female dentists, so not a big enough sample size to make a broad generalisation, I’ve heard of similar stories from colleagues such as

    1. female dentist not having the strength to pull out a premolar and then leaving the office to call a male dentist to do the job.

    2. Not injecting enough anaesthetic and leave the patient screaming in pain.


    In answer to your concerns about xrays, any competant dentist will advise xrays at least once a year (bitewings minimally) because changes can occur rather quickly in teeth/bone. As an adult you arent getting a proper checkup without them done periodically bc there are some problems you just cant see with the naked eye. The radiation in dental xrays is so minimal the effect is gone instantly. You’re likely getting more radiation standing near the microwave or using a cell phone (but dont quote

    As for male dentists being better…I’ve found the craftsmanship of the restorations to be the same having worked with both (i’m a hygienist and assistant 5+ yrs). But the attitude seems to be better with male dentists. Most were more laid back and able to make the patient comfortable. I’m not making any solid claims, but in my experience female dentists projected a lack of sincerity and willingness to adjust to unexpected surpises in a busy day of treatment.

  • Bianca Jackson

    As long as I’m sure that they’re going to do a good job, the gender doesn’t matter. They’re still dentists, right? If I were going to have a dental implant put on me, I would care more about the results rather than who’s going to do the surgery and all that. There are a lot of good dentists here in Las Vegas. May they be men or women, they’re all good dentists.

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