How Women in Dentistry Are Reshaping the Industry

With International Women’s Day right around the corner, the influence women have had in the field of dentistry has been at the forefront of our minds. To honor their contributions and achievements in this space, we thought it would be a great idea to take a look at the past, present and future of women in the dental profession.

Looking Back at the Impacts Women Have Had on Dentistry

From innovative techniques to new inventions, women have played a pivotal role in advancing dentistry for centuries. For instance, Elizabeth Morey invented the very first dental crown in the 19th century. Using innovative materials for the time, she created artificial teeth to cover broken or missing teeth.

Although we can’t cover every great female trailblazer in dental history, here are a few notable figures who have made their mark on dentistry:

Dr. Emeline Roberts Jones

Dr. Emeline Roberts Jones is recognized as the first woman to practice dentistry, starting in the late 1800s. It all began when she took an interest in her husband’s work as a dentist. While he was reluctant to teach her, Dr. Roberts Jones demonstrated dedication and perseverance by practicing and teaching herself dentistry in secrecy until the two eventually became partners. After her husband’s death, Dr. Roberts Jones opened her own practice in 1876. In 1914, she was inducted into the National Dental Association, leaving her mark in the world of dentistry.

Dr. Lucy Hobbs Taylor

Dr. Lucy Hobbs Taylor was the first woman to officially receive a doctorate in dentistry in 1866. After teaching school children for 10 years in Michigan, she moved to Ohio to pursue a career in dentistry. However, she was rejected from numerous medical schools based on her gender. Studying privately under the dean of the Ohio College of Dental Surgery, Dr. Hobbs Taylor eventually earned her degree and opened several practices throughout her life.

Dr. Ida Gray Nelson Rollins

Born in 1876, Dr. Ida Gray Nelson Rollins became the first African American female dentist. She achieved her Doctorate of Dental Surgery from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry in 1890 as one of just three women in her graduating class. Dr. Nelson Rollins opened her first private dental practice in Cincinnati, Ohio, but moved to Chicago after five years where she started a new practice that served men and women of all races.

The Outlook for Women in Dentistry

Thanks to all the women who made significant contributions. There are more women in the field than ever before. Today, the University at Albany estimates that around 31% of active dentists identify as female — and this number is only expected to increase.

As the dental profession progresses toward gender parity, it’s important to reflect on where we came from and find ways to push the field further toward equality. To do that, let’s take a look at how women are currently reshaping dentistry as we know it.

Women Are Joining at Rising Rates

During the 2021 to 2022 school year, women made up an astonishing 56% of first-year dental students — the highest rates ever, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). Compared to just 11% in 1978, this stat shows just how much the industry has shifted in recent decades. This massive increase demonstrates not only how far the field has progressed, but also how years of grit and determination have forged a path for today’s female dentists.

Ethnic Diversity is Also Increasing

In addition to gender, the dental industry has also widely embraced increasing ethnic diversity. According to the ADA, over 40% of female dentists are minorities, compared to just 22.4% of men. This increasing diversity makes practices more representative of the communities they serve, and it also means that dental teams can leverage a wide range of perspectives to make better decisions in the field.

See How These Organizations Are Supporting Women in Dentistry

So, what does all of this mean for the future? Let’s look at a few organizations that are driving the profession forward by empowering women to achieve in the field of dentistry.

Women in DSO®

Founded in 2019 by Dr. Aman Kaur, Women in DSO is an organization that’s dedicated to advancing, and promoting future and current female leaders across the dental support organization (DSO) space. This includes those leading, managing, directing, supporting and developing dentistry’s most innovative and outstanding practice groups.

From highlighting women in the field to hosting networking events to providing professional mentorship, Women in DSO offers an exceptional platform with a broad reach across the industry and a diverse approach to problem-solving and leadership.

Aspen Dental

The Aspen Dental Group was founded in 1998 with a bold vision to break down the barriers to patient care and provide unparalleled support for providers. As the organization grew, its leaders found that exceptional customer service requires a diverse set of minds.

That’s why the organization has always been a proud supporter of women in dentistry. In fact, some of the founding members of Women in DSO come from Aspen Dental leadership.

Carestream Dental

At Carestream Dental, our mission is to transform dentistry with simplified technology and innovative digital solutions. To achieve that goal, we make the most of our diverse leadership and perspectives while lending our overwhelming support to inclusion initiatives.

As one of the few female-led dental technology and software companies in the world, we’re passionate about creating opportunities for women to succeed in the industry. That’s why we’re proud to be a founding partner of Women in DSO. Through our partnership, we hope to change the face of dentistry with a shift in demographics.

Find Out How You Can Empower and Grow

Want to learn more about women in dentistry? Join the brightest minds in the field for the Empower and Grow 2023 annual conference, March 8-10th — where founding partners and progressive DSOs will gather to discuss empowering women in the industry.

Register today.