Dental schools and the future supply of dentists


Dental schools are an integral — if not obvious — factor in filling the shortage of dentists in the United States.

Several recently opened dental schools have cited the insufficient supply of dentists as a key reason why more dental school graduates are needed, according to an ADA Health Policy Institute research brief, “Projected Supply of Dentists in the United States, 2020-2040.”

“There was a large cohort of dentists who graduated from U.S. dental schools between 1974 and 1988,” according to HPI. “When they started to retire, this dramatically increased the outflows from the workforce from 2015 through 2020 and we projected their retirements will also account for much of the outflows through 2030.”

The retirements have largely kept the ratio of dentists per population nearly unchanged in recent years, even as the number of dental schools increased and expanded enrollment. According to HPI, it recognizes that the future number of dental school graduates is subject to intense debate and speculation. Yes, new dental schools continue to open, but the flattening of dentist earnings in recent years, the increases in dental education debt and the reduction in demand for restorative dental care could ultimately impact the number of dental school applicants.

In this by-the-numbers infographic, the ADA News seeks to help visualize the future supply of dentists in the U.S. and dental schools’ role in bridging the shortage gap.

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