diversity in the dental workplace

A discussion on the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in dental workplaces, and how it can be improved through various approaches.

By Dr. Shilpy Bhandari

Lack of diversity has been a perennial challenge in medical and dental workplaces. Inclusion of people from diverse backgrounds (e.g., gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and disability) into the health workforce could help reach underserved populations, eliminate health disparities, and make health services more affordable and open to diverse populations.

In this article, we discuss the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in dental workplaces, and how it can be improved. 

How Diverse is the Dental Profession?

In the U.S., Blacks, Hispanics or Latinos, American Indians, and Alaska Natives are considered underrepresented ethnicities. According to the American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute survey (HPI) in 2020, of the 201,117 working dentists 70.2% were White, 18.0% were Asian, 5.9% were Hispanic, and 3.8% were Black.

According to a 2019 report from the American College Health Association, 20.0% of 54,497 U.S. undergraduate students and 17.7% of the 11,561 graduate and professional students identified themselves as LGBTQIA. However, information on sexual orientation and gender identity is still unknown for dental students.

The diversity in the dental workforce reflects the diversity in dental schools. Over the years, the share of Asian and Hispanic dental students has increased and the share of white dentists has reduced. However, the share of Black dental students hasn’t improved. The sex diversification has positively changed, with nearly equal or slightly greater number of women (53.5%) graduating than men (46.4%). However, dental faculty who are responsible for recruiting and promoting coming generations of dental providers remain less diversified compared to students. Overall, there is a significant lag in the diversity of the dental workforce, including in support staff such as hygienists, technicians, and dental nurses.

Importance of Diversity in the Dental Workplace

Some of the benefits of diversifying the dental workplace are:

Limitations of Diversification Efforts

How to Promote Diversity and Inclusion at the Dental Workplace

To build diversity and inclusion at the dental workplace, we need to first address issues at the secondary and dental school levels, improve public policy, and make a conscious effort to include a diverse workforce at the dental workplace.

Measures that can promote diversity at pre-college and dental school levels:


Inclusive workplace model adopted by organizations:

Despite previous efforts, inclusion of diversity has not yet yielded significant universal results. However, introduction and implementation of newer approaches from the level of pre-college and dental schools will help improve diversity at dental workplaces.


Author: Dr. Shilpy Bhandari is an experienced dental surgeon, with a specialization in periodontics and implantology. She received her graduate and postgraduate education from Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences in India. She is also interested in evidence-based academic writing and has published several articles in international journals.

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