Underrepresented Minority Dentists: Quantifying Their Numbers And Characterizing The Communities They Serve
The underrepresentation of Blacks, Hispanics or Latinos, and American Indians or Alaska Natives among dentists raises concerns about the diversity of the dental workforce, disparities in access to dental care and in oral health status, and social justice. We quantified the shortage of underrepresented minority dentists and examined these dentists’ practice patterns in relation to the characteristics of the communities they serve. The underrepresented minority dentist workforce is disproportionately smaller than, and unevenly distributed in relation to, minority populations in the United States. Members of minority groups represent larger shares of these dentists’ patient panels than of the populations in the communities where the dentists are located. Compared to counties with no underrepresented minority dentists, counties with one or more such dentists are more racially diverse and affluent but also have greater economic and social inequality. Current policy approaches to improve the diversity of the dental workforce are a critical first step, but more must be done to improve equity in dental health.