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The Changing Role of Women in Dentistry

The role of women in dentistry has changed a lot in recent years, as the anecdote shows.

I remember traveling with a DPR sales rep, on a visit to a potential advertiser. The older gentleman working as a marketing manager had been around the dental industry for much of his working life. I was explaining DPR’s editorial mission to him and showed him the Women in Dentistry issue that we had recently published, explaining how it fit the plans. Products are of no use if they are not appreciated by clinicians – and innovation is at its best and most powerful when it actually serves the purpose of making the life of a patient better. The women honored in that magazine were a group that were gaining increasing amounts of influence – not just in the dental practice, but also in the boardroom and the classroom.

The marketing manager was unimpressed. He asked me when the magazine would be publishing an issue to recognize the top men in the field of dentistry. I joked that every other issue that we publish, all year-round, is devoted to men. Really, that’s the truth. He didn’t laugh, or take the point. This story wasn’t from decades ago, either – it happened just six years ago.

Things have changed slightly since then, but probably not enough. There is some amazing work being done to support and recognize women in dentistry and to mentor those trying to break into the field. The number of women working in practices is increasing, and the number of manufacturers that recognize the power of women is growing stronger. There are more women working in the periphery of dentistry too – women serving as sales reps, customer service workers, and educators. Women are taking more of a place in the field – thanks in part to the work done by the American Association of Women in Dentistry.

Things are changing – slowly. There is a long way to go before we could claim anything approaching parity. Women in dentistry are still thought of as a monolithic demographic. Women don’t all have the same professional goals, they don’t face the same problems, and they don’t have the same concerns. We can discuss the way that women in the field feel – but that would be just as inefficient as discussing the way that men in the field feel. Not all male dentists are the same either. For change to happen, we need to appreciate that women are individuals.

DPR published its first Top 25 Women in Dentistry to honor the inspirational, accomplished and wonderful people in the field. Each person in the first issue has been thankful for their inclusion. Year after year the industry produces new innovations and proves that there are so many more women in the field that need respect. We will continue to honor the amazing women in the field of dentistry – whichever aspect of the field they are working on, hopefully for a long time to come.