FYI

Dentist blog from Delta Dental

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Find the latest news about dentistry and the dental health industry.

Positioned for success: workplace ergonomics in the dental office

Imagine you’re in the middle of a clinical procedure. Are your neck and upper back straining as you try to get a better view? Are your hands and wrists clenched and tense? Are your legs dangling or crossed? If you answered “yes,” you’re not alone.

Many people struggle to maintain good posture throughout the day. Unfortunately, bad posture can contribute to the development of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) like carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis and muscle strain. For dentists and other dental professionals, MSDs are the leading cause for early retirement. At least 62% of dentists report one musculoskeletal complaint, with the most prevalent areas of pain being in the lower back and neck.

The good news is that you don’t need to accept pain as a part of your job. With proper ergonomics, you can identify and address work-related pain.

What is ergonomics?

Ergonomics is a philosophy that promotes designing workplaces to fit human needs so workers don’t need to strain to perform their jobs. The goal is to make you more efficient without compromising your safety. You can do this by maintaining a neutral position as much as possible and limiting tasks that cause strain. That means setting up workstations so everything you need is in reach or using special equipment, like footrests, to maintain a 90-degree bend in the knee.

Equipment can’t do all the work, though. State-of-the-art tools and gadgets should be paired with good posture to prevent potential MSDs. Practicing good posture is also the cheapest and quickest way to begin an ergonomic program.

What does good posture look like?

Unfortunately, careers in oral health are rife with opportunities to slouch and strain. To prevent MSDs, take note of these tips for good posture.

  • Spinal alignment. Maintain an erect, neutral spine instead of bending forward or leaning over the patient.
  • Proximity. Move your stool as close as possible to the patient’s head to minimize the need to overextend your arms or back.
  • Position. Keep your feet flat on the floor or the footrest of your stool. Adjust your stool height so your thighs slope slightly downward. Sit, rather than stand, for all clinical procedures. Hold your wrists in a neutral position and minimize wrist movement.
  • Weight distribution. Evenly distribute your weight in a tripod pattern, through each foot on the floor and your stool.
  • Equipment. Consider using a loupe to minimize the need to perch on the edge of your stool to see. If your overhead light is too dim or casts too many shadows, consider a head-mounted light as an alternative. Avoid gripping instruments tightly.
  • Stretching. When possible, take 10 minutes to get up and stretch your spine, arms and legs. Stretching during and after work can help relax strained muscles.
  • Exercise. Some poor posture habits begin with a weak core. Your core muscles act as a brace to your lower back when engaged, but using them all day can be exhausting. Train your core to make it easier to maintain good posture.

With tight schedules and productivity quotas, it can be difficult to prioritize time-consuming tasks like re-positioning patients. If you can’t eliminate strain, reducing it is still helpful. One easy way to reduce strain is to have your patients scoot to the end of the headrest once the chair is reclined. Eliminating those few inches between the top of their head and the top of the headrest shrinks the space for you to lean over.

The ergonomic office

For practice owners, investing in ergonomic training and supporting healthy practices has long-term benefits like preventing unwanted retirement, reducing canceled appointments and lessening the need for disability leave.

Ultimately, though, these suggestions are just the beginning. Most dental tools were developed with an average male dentist in mind, which may put people with smaller builds at a disadvantage. With ergonomics, there isn’t one solution to address every problem. You need to consider your and your team’s individual needs.

When implementing changes, remember to include the whole office. Your practice manager and front desk assistants also have ergonomic needs like monitor positioning and desk height. Encourage your team to communicate when they’re struggling with strain so that issues can be addressed early on. Approve time off to visit the doctor when needed. 

Even small changes can have a huge impact towards becoming an ergonomically healthy practice.

Dental office managers and AADOM: advocating for the backbone of your business

Lorie Streeter has been in the entertainment world since she could walk, making appearances on “The Gong Show,” “The New Mickey Mouse Club” and even opening for major musical acts like Rascal Flatts. She also has three decades of experience in the dental industry, including 12 years as a dental office manager. This may seem like a strange career trajectory, but according to Streeter, who still manages to moonlight as a performer, it actually isn’t that unusual.

“There’s no dental office manager school,” Streeter said. “These people fell into the profession just like I did and made a career out of it. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it.”

She was singing in a nightclub when a dentist friend offered Streeter a day job at his practice. She accepted and now 30 years later, her career has taken a turn toward advocacy for others in dentistry’s front office roles, as the vice president of the American Association of Dental Office Management (AADOM).

Since its inception in 2005, AADOM has aimed to champion the people filling this crucial and sometimes overlooked role. Needless to say, Streeter knows a thing or two about what it takes to run a dental office and the best ways to offer support to the people who do.

So you want to be a dental office manager…

There are more than half a million dental office managers in the United States, according to a 2020 study by Zippia, and a large majority of them are women. The study also revealed that most practices require an associate degree and that candidates with experience with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines, patient care, daily operations and finance are the most desirable in the field.

“A day in the life of a dental office manager is a screamingly loud carnival ride of adventure,” Streeter said. “My very first day of work, the assistant came up and she had this big orange book with all the information on the teeth. She set it on my desk and said, ‘Here, learn it.’ I was scared, but I did.”

At any given moment, a dental office manager may be multitasking as your insurance liaison, scheduling manager, HIPAA compliance officer or staff supervisor. Often times, it’s a combination of all four, plus various other duties. For dental assistants who move into to this role, some of these responsibilities may be second nature. For those just entering the world of dentistry, however, learning medical terminology and the ins and outs of insurance may be a whole new skillset to tackle.

“I think as clinicians, there’s always a procedure that they can follow,” Streeter said. “For an office manager, the cards fall differently every day, and they’re touching all aspects of the practice. It’s always something different.”

Nailing down all of the most important qualifications for dental office managers is one of the challenges faced in the profession. Every practice is different and the size and needs of an office can vary greatly from location to location, so there isn’t much of a one size fits all job description for the role. That said, some skills are universally appreciated.

“AADOM did a study that found that most office managers are perfectionists,” Streeter said. “It isn’t a bad quality to have when you’re trying to juggle a lot of tasks in a day. The No. 1 skill that I think a dental office manager needs is patience. Patience for your team, for yourself, for your doctor, for the schedule.”

A need for advocacy

Since there’s no particular school to prepare someone for the job of a dental office manager (as in other aspects of dentistry), the opportunity to meet peers, learn and grow only arise once someone has taken the plunge with their career.

“We tell AADOM members that they’re not on an island,” Streeter said. “At my first dental job, there were several other practices nearby, but if I had a question about insurance or something, I couldn’t just go next door and ask their office manager. They were competition.”

The organization not only advocates for dental office managers but helps link them with others in their role, Streeter said. It’s as much a social network as it is resource for development and growth.

“AADOM removes the barrier,” she said. “We give them an opportunity to talk to their peers and connect. They can answer each other’s questions.”

Room to bloom

Dental office managers are the backbone of many practices. They’re the face of the front office while keeping everything running smoothly behind the scenes, and yet, they’re often stretched thin with limited options for educational and growth resources.

So, what’s the best way to show your office manager your appreciation? Streeter suggests that a little understanding can go a long way.

“A lot of times an office manager might seem frustrated, overwhelmed or stressed,” Streeter said. “That’s only because we’ve been on hold with insurance for two hours or something got denied that the doctor already finished — all of those challenges. Having some empathy for your multitasking office manager is so important.”

As for growth opportunities, investing in your staff can be an investment in your practice. Streeter said that’s where AADOM comes in. The organization offers an annual conference packed with educational talks and networking opportunities. It also offers a vast assortment of online courses for everyone — from those new to the industry to office veterans looking to learn something new.

Lorie Streeter of AADOM
Lorie Streeter of AADOM

“The magic of AADOM is the people looking for it,” Streeter said. “It’s the office managers who are looking for a sense of belonging and an association that only serves them… AADOM caters to anyone who touches the front of the office. One course can change your mindset about doing something, and we have some of the best educators in dentistry working with office managers all the time.”

By empowering people in the role, Streeter hopes to flourish the careers of those considering dental office management and those already in it. She says that creating more resources and advancement opportunities is a huge step towards that goal.

“Energy goes where attention flows,” Streeter said. “Once our team put a spotlight on office managers, we managed to professionalize the role. Years ago, offices didn’t look at the office manager as an opinion leader or someone with an important role in the process, but now they’re an entire target audience. The office manager role is far more understood than ever before and far more valued.”

Stress taking a bite of patients’ dental health

For many, 2020 ushered in feelings of isolation and fear, as well as new concerns about financial stability, safety, family and how to juggle all of it from home. For some dentists, the stress of the situation has become apparent in their patients’ oral health. As of March, over 70% of dentists surveyed by the American Dental Association (ADA) Healthy Policy Institute reported an increase in patients experiencing teeth grinding and clenching since before the pandemic. That number is up nearly 10% from fall of 2020. In fact, more than 80% of Americans have reported emotions associated with prolonged stress, according to a January study by the American Psychological Association (APA).

“Generally, manifestations of stress go away when the stressing event goes away. That’s where the pandemic comes in,” said Dr. Daniel Croley, DMD, chief dental officer for Delta Dental. “One of the ways that some people manifest stress is by clenching and grinding their teeth.”

Dental conditions related to stress go beyond teeth grinding, of course.

Stress-related conditions

Multiple studies have shown that emotions can play a significant role in periodontal disease. Thanks to an increase in inflammation from stress-induced conditions, the gums can become a hotbed for bacteria, leading to gingivitis. According to the ADA, dentists reported recent upticks in all of the following conditions:

  • Bruxism
  • Chipped teeth
  • Cracked teeth
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) symptoms
  • Caries
  • Periodontal disease
  • Xerostomia
  • Halitosis
  • Oral mucosal lesions

Delta Dental’s claim data also suggests a rise in stress-related conditions. Bite guards, commonly associated with treatment for bruxism and TMJ were prescribed 14.3% more by Delta Dental dentists in the second half of 2020 than during the same period in 2019.

Sleep and ergonomics

During the mad rush to convert homes to offices in the early days of the pandemic, couches and stools took the place of lumbar-supported work chairs. Ergonomic workspaces became less of a priority than merely having a functioning workspace and the resulting poor posture may also be to blame for some TMJ issues. If your patients have been working from home, suggest they read up on proper ergonomics for their workstation.

Likewise, stress and disrupted routines likely hurt the chances at restorative sleep, increasing nighttime teeth grinding. Insomnia and restlessness can result in bruxism and TMJ.

Mask mouth

On top of these stress-induced issues is yet another pandemic problem: mask mouth. The facemask has been a staple of pandemic life and has greatly contributed to the slowing of the virus but can come with unfortunate byproducts: bad breath, dry mouth and even gingivitis and tooth decay.

Dental professionals attribute mask mouth to dehydration and mouth breathing when wearing a face covering. Though the ADA found no substantial rise in these specific indicators, the symptoms are preventable through thorough brushings and more regular hydration. On the upside, masks can sometimes help wearers identify their own halitosis, which may stem from more serious problems.

Other reasons for the spike

It is important to note that not all of these conditions are caused solely by anxiety and tension. For instance, a broken tooth could come as the result of anxiety-induced teeth-grinding, but it could also be caused by an accident or prolonged dental problems. Unfortunately, most claim data does not include the cause behind the diagnosis. Without that, it is impossible to say with absolute certainty that stress is the sole reason for a spike in numbers.

“It’s logical to conclude that current stress is leading to those broken and chipped teeth,” Dr. Croley said. “We will monitor and see. As we see broader distribution of the COVID vaccine and our daily lives feel more typical of what we experienced pre-pandemic, we will see our stress subside and as a result the need for bite guards to treat grinding and clenching subside — but our bodies can take some time to re-acclimate. Going back to the typical is still a change from what has been our weird ‘normal’ over the past year, and any change can generate stress.”

Many patients may not realize the correlation between stress and oral health. Educating your patients about how mental health can affect their mouth when signs of stress are detected is an important first step toward solving the issue. The ADA has created a compilation of resources for recognizing and managing stress. These may be especially helpful if you are are working with anxious patients or experiencing stress yourself.

DentaQual tells patients how high you score in the stats that matter

Beginning April 2, you can find a new quality rating system in the dentist directory: DentaQual. Here are a few points to help you understand how your DentaQual score helps new patients find you by objectively quantifying what makes you a great dentist.

What is DentaQual?

DentaQual is a ratings system developed by P&R Dental Strategies that showcases the quality of the care you provide to your patients. By providing a comprehensive, uniform metric, DentaQual boosts patients’ trust in your care and confidence in their outcomes. Your DentaQual score appears on your dentist directory listing and is updated monthly.

What makes DentaQual scoring objective?

P&R Dental Strategies is a neutral third-party dental informatics company that is not owned by any insurance carriers. DentaQual ratings are determined using treatment data only. Instead of relying on subjective patient testimonials, DentaQual is based on a statistical analysis of de-identified and aggregated claims data. The metrics that are scored are:

  • Treatment outcomes
  • Commitment to best practices
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Patient retention
  • Treatment recommendations

All scoring is based on standard deviation from the norm, with the “the norm” representing the average level of quality in the dentist’s three-digit ZIP code region and specialty. DentaQual’s data comes from DentaBase, P&R Dental Strategies’ multi-payer, de-identified and aggregated claims database. DentaQual ratings do not include Medicaid claims data.

How can DentaQual help my practice?

Your DentaQual score serves as another resource to attract new patients. Unlike an online review you might find on social media, DentaQual’s objectivity means that the quality of your work as a dentist will be able to speak for itself. When it comes to online reviews, patients often review dentists like they would a restaurant, prioritizing personality and speed of service over quality of care.

Will every dentist in the Delta Dental network have a DentaQual rating?

Ratings will be applied to Delta Dental PPO™ and Delta Dental Premier® dentists in our 15 enterprise states and the District of Columbia. DeltaCare® USA dentists within those geographic areas who also participate in the PPO and Premier networks will also be rated. At this time, DentaQual scores will only be shown on the directory pages for dentists with enough available data to be rated. The data will be refreshed on a monthly basis, so if you don’t currently have a score, you may in the future as more data becomes available.

I’m in a group practice with other dentists and we all share the same patients. Will we have different ratings?

DentaQual scoring is based on claims data from the dentist who performs the treatment through his or her NPI. Because of this, your rating may differ from those of other dentists at the same practice.


If you have more questions about DentaQual or your score, please reach out to P&R Dental Strategies at DentaQual@pandrdental.com. You can also request a copy of your rating summary for reference.

The 2020 elections and the dental industry — what it means for you

In an outcome that defied many polls and predictions, the Democratic Party gained control of the Senate in the 2020 United States elections, while winning the White House and keeping control (just barely) of the House of Representatives.

While the election results were surprising, what’s not a surprise is that this “clean sweep” may have an impact on dentists and the dental industry. Here are some potential outcomes that may affect you.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the health insurance marketplace (exchange) system will be preserved and expanded

President Joe Biden’s administration has made restoring the ACA an immediate priority, and many of the cuts and restrictions imposed by the administration of former President Donald Trump are being reversed.

This is a positive development for dentists, said Jeff Album, Vice President of Public & Government Affairs for Delta Dental.

“Any news that’s good for the ACA and the exchanges is good for dentists,” Album said. “This market attracts people who wouldn’t otherwise get insurance through work, and increases in subsidies also help draw people into coverage. People with coverage are almost twice as likely to see the dentist as people without coverage.”

Among the ACA-related actions that are either underway or soon to happen under this administration:

A special enrollment period to increase exchange enrollment is officially underway

President Biden signed an executive order to create a special enrollment period from February 15, 2021 through May 15, 2021, during which eligible people can enroll in coverage from the federal health insurance marketplace. Uninsured residents in the 36 states that use the federal exchange system, including those who lost coverage because of the pandemic, can look for plans.

States with their own marketplaces are also creating special enrollment periods, although the time frames and eligibility requirements may differ.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has earmarked $50 million for outreach and education during the enrollment period.

The ACA’s Navigator Program will return

Reversing the prior administration’s move to defund this program, CMS will now provide about $2.3 million to help people find coverage on the federal exchanges, a process that can be confusing. The money will fund 30 Navigator Programs in 28 states. This, Album said, should help bolster dental enrollment.

“Several studies suggests that consumers are completely unaware of marketplace open enrollment dates, including the special enrollment periods,” Album said. “We believe this type of outreach will definitely help promote adult dental voluntary enrollment.”

Subsidies for exchanges will increase

The Biden administration included increases to ACA subsidies in its COVID-19 relief package. Consumers with household income more than 400% the federal poverty threshold will receive federal assistance to ensure that no more than 8.5% of their income goes toward a plan.

“The subsidies are getting better and the Biden administration is trying to bring more people into the exchanges,” Album said. “A great many small business and individuals impacted by the economy and COVID will now have an opportunity to get exchange-based dental coverage.”

Waivers that allow states to circumvent exchanges may be eliminated

Section 1332 of the ACA permits states to apply for a waiver to pursue “innovative strategies” to provide their residents with access to affordable health insurance, so long as they retain the basic protections of the ACA.

However, in 2020, the state of Georgia used the 1332 waiver to effectively eliminate its exchange program and force Georgia residents to purchase plans from private insurers without any kind of centralized platform. As a result, President Biden directed federal agencies to reexamine all waiver policies, including 1332.

“I think this administration is going to be tougher than the former one when it comes to deviating from the ACA’s framework,” Album said. “We’re not likely to see any other states attempt a direct enrollment alternative to centralized state-based exchanges or the federally facilitated exchange.”

Medicaid eligibility under the ACA may expand

The COVID-19 relief package recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives included incentives to encourage states to expand Medicaid eligibility under the ACA. States that choose to expand would receive a 5% increase in Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) payments to current Medicaid enrollees.

“The FMAP increases are important because that’s what allows states to do optional benefits like adult dental,” Album said. “Here in California, the adult dental Medicaid program was going to be in trouble if the state didn’t receive more financial assistance. It now looks very likely that Congress will pass some FMAP increase in the near future.”

A “public option” with a dental benefit could be created — but probably won’t

A public option would be a federal health insurance program offered on states’ exchanges as an alternative to private plans. It would probably be subsidized for lower income Americans and at least partially paid for by enrollees who don’t qualify for subsidies.

While dental coverage wouldn’t be a guaranteed benefit for anyone other than children, it could be made available on a voluntary basis.

Initially, it seemed as though a clean sweep by the Democrats would almost guarantee a public option. Candidate Biden repeatedly said he supported it during his 2020 campaign. And California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Biden’s pick for Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and a long-time proponent single payer healthcare, said during a recent Senate hearing that he would support Biden’s efforts to do so.

However, the Democratic sweep in the 2020 election might not be enough to push this through. Despite their control of the Senate, the Democratic majority depends on the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris. Furthermore, the Democratic majority in the House narrowed significantly.

“Given the Democrats’ razor-thin majority in both the Senate and the House, and Republican opposition to the concept, a public option currently seems unlikely,” Album said. “I don’t see it happening.”

Leaving the ACA, here are a few other possible issues to consider.

A dental benefit could be added to Medicare

Democrats in the House and Senate have introduced bills to add dental under Medicare Part B. However, as introduced these bills don’t specify which benefits should be added, and neither the House nor the Senate is likely to take these bills up in earnest until the latter half of the year.

There may be changes to tax laws that dentists should be aware of

Biden’s tax plan includes proposals to raise taxes on corporations and people who earn more than $400,000 per year. These are some changes that could affect dentists:

  • The tax rate on incomes above $400,000 would increase to 39.6% from 37%.
  • The Section 199A 20% deduction for practice and real estate profits would be repealed for people whose taxable income exceeds $400,000.
  • Your payroll taxes might increase because a 12.4% Social Security payroll tax, split between you and your employees, would be imposed on earned income that exceeds $400,000.
  • If you plan to sell your practice, be aware that the tax rate on capital gains and dividends would increase to 39.6% (not including the 3.8% Affordable Care Act tax levied on gains) from a maximum of 20% if your taxable income exceeds $1 million.
  • The estate tax exemption would be reduced to $5 million from $11,580,000, and the estate tax rate would increase to 45% from 40%.

As with any new administration, there are more questions than answers at this point, and how — or if — some of these proposed changes will be implemented is uncertain. What is certain, however, is that we can expect more proposals and policy updates that will affect dentists in the upcoming months. Be sure to refer back to FYI for news and updates as they become available.

The history and future of women in dentistry

It’s undeniable that the landscape of the American workforce has changed since 1866, when Lucy Hobbs Taylor became the first woman to earn a degree in dentistry. As women have become legally equal to men and financially independent, the demographics of labor have shifted in many fields.

In honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, here’s a look at the changing role of women within the field of dentistry.

Early women in dentistry

Dentistry has been around since the earliest days of human civilization and has always been practiced in some form. It took until the 1700s for dentistry as we know it today to became more prominent. In all likelihood, women have always been performing dentistry, but it wasn’t until the mid-1800s that we see the first cases of women practicing in Sweden, the United States and Belgium.

Emeline Roberts Jones

In the United States, Emeline Roberts Jones was the first practicing female dentist, having taught herself basic fillings and extractions in secret. She joined her husband’s dental practice in 1855 and, after his passing, continued to practice on her own. She was elected to the Connecticut State Dental society in 1883 and was made an honorary member of the National Dental Association in 1914.

In the early 1900s, some dental schools started experimenting with allowing female students, while others tacitly refused to accept them. During this period, there were only a few dozen female graduates from dental schools every year. Female dentists started professional groups to connect with each other. One of these groups was the American Association of Women Dentists, formed in 1921 and still active today.

During World War II, female dentists offered their skills to the U.S. Army but were flatly denied. Some dentists, like Sara G. Krout, got around this by joining volunteer emergency services. The wartime economy created job opportunities for women in heavy industry and other roles thought to be masculine. Female dentists were able to fill the roles left open by men joining the armed forces. In fact, women’s presence in the workforce during World War II is considered by many historians to be a key factor in the changes that were to come.

A shift: demographic changes after the 1960s

In the 1960s, the first generation of baby boomers turned 18 and the baby boom was taking a toll. Women who had multiple children by the time they were 25 still had 15 to 25 years of fertility to go. Some families were tucked into small homes, unable to afford larger spaces. Being able to contribute financially and control fertility was becoming more important than ever.

Growing alongside the civil rights and anti-war movements, the women’s liberation movement aimed to address inequality faced by women in legal and social contexts. Some of the many goals of the movement were to grant women reproductive rights, increase opportunities in the workplace and redefine familial roles. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 helped make it possible for women to go into professional fields by prohibiting discrimination based on sex.

After oral contraceptives were introduced in the 60s, women of all ages and marital statuses were able to postpone children or space out births. Birth control allowed them to pursue higher education and careers they may not have had in the past and social concepts of women as secondary earners were replaced by a two-income family model. Women also gained the right to apply for credit without a male co-signer in 1974, granting single women more financial freedom. The passing of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978 protected pregnant women from hiring discrimination.

Many fields have seen steady changes in their demographic breakdowns that coincide with these changes, and dentistry is no exception. Women accounted for only 11% of dental school graduates in 1978, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). In 2018, half of dental school graduates were women.

Women aren’t just getting their degrees in dentistry at higher rates; they’re also becoming leaders in dental education and professional associations. In 2010, there were 111 female assistant deans in dental schools, nearly seven times more than the 16 assistant deans in 1990. Kathleen T. O’Loughlin became the first female president of the ADA in 2009.

Women also represent a large portion of oral health–related jobs beyond dentistry. Of the 150,000 registered dental hygienists in the United States, 98% are female. Women make up 97% of dental office managers, according to a survey from 2019. About 93% of dental assistants are female. Half of dental laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians are female.

Looking towards the future

Among the 201,117 dentists working in dentistry as of 2020, only 32% are female. That may seem low, but that figure is expected to rise as the number of women graduating from dental school and entering the workforce increases. In fact, women make up 60% of dentists under the age of 44 and show no signs of stopping.

It’s important to note that the overall change might be slow since the average age of retirement is rising. Americans age 50 and older hold over 20% of all student debt, which is affecting the rate at which they retire. Dentists are some of the most indebted professionals and their debt-to-income ratio is rising faster than other health care workers. The average dental school debt for the class of 2019 was $292,169. Assuming a 7% interest rate on a 10-year repayment plan, the average loan would require monthly payments of $3,390. Those student loans may cause delays in retirement savings and ultimately a higher percentage of dentists in their 70s.

Still, there are remain disparities in the field. Female dentists make 17.5% less than their male counterparts, according to the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau. And female dental assistants make 5% less than their male counterparts, despite making up almost 93% of their profession.

The formation of professional groups like Women in Dentistry and the American Association of Women Dentists gives female dentists a place to come together. With more women becoming mentors and take on leadership roles, the disparities are likely to shrink as dentistry becomes a more diverse and inclusive field.

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