Your American dentist is less and less likely to be a white man

Women are on track to overtake men in the profession.
Women are on track to overtake men in the profession.
Image: Reuters/Stephen Lam
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This post has been corrected.

It’s time to re-think the stereotype of your average American dentist. The share of white men in the profession is declining, as more and more women and an increasing number of minorities opt for dental school, according to data from the American Dental Association (ADA).

The reason why more women are choosing dentistry can probably be summed up by one word: Flexibility. Ruchi Sahota is a spokesperson for the ADA and a practicing dentist. She had a baby six months ago. “As a woman, it is empowering to be able to have a profession where I can set my own hours, whether or not I was a mother,” she tells Quartz.

Sahota is part of a mother-daughter dentistry team in Fremont, California. When she was growing up, her mother, a single parent, was able to schedule her patient visits around raising her children, grabbing the 30 minutes here and there to pick them up from school and drop them off at soccer practice.

But Sahota, who in her 11-year career has worked in other settings, including a Veterans Affairs hospital, says the hours are great all across the profession. Hospital hours, for example, could be 8 to 4:30, allowing women to get home early.

Women are also drawn to dentistry for the good, stable money it pays, she says.

More and more women are also leaders in the industry, including the current president of the ADA. “Just to see how many female leaders there are in the various professional organizations, that bodes very well for more increase of female participation,” says Sahota.

There’s another aspect of dentistry that drew both Sahota and her mother to the profession. “I absolutely love the fact that I have such great relationships with my patients,” she says. Dentists see most of their patients twice a year, and “that touchstone of seeing them every six months allows me to have these relationships with them.”

Correction: This article previously stated dentist wages are increasing, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. When adjusted for inflation, wages for 2014 are slightly smaller than in 2003.