Monday, May 24, 2021

Number of Practicing Dentists Will Grow by 10% by 2040 According to Projections

 It's amazing how things cycle in life and society.  When I was in dental school in the 1980s, the number of dentists in the U.S. had been growing for several years and there was concern that the profession might soon be overpopulated.  Obviously if there were too many dentists, the ability to make a living becomes much more difficult.  For years U.S. dental schools were graduating lots of dentists, but the population was also increasing at a comparable rate.

However, by the 1980s things started to change.  To keep the dentist to patient ratio at a proper percentage, schools began to decrease class sizes.  My first year in dental school was 1983 and the 4th year class had 160 students.  My class was 120.

Class size also fuels that expenses of a program and some universities decided to completely close their dental schools.  I'm not sure how many ended up closing during that phase, but I can name 5 off the top of my head all these years later.  I believe that my alma mater UMKC eventually lowered class size to 50 in the early 2000s.

 Yet, keeping the ratio at the correct level is a difficult job.  There were too many dentists in the 80s and early 90s, but as the school closings and class size reductions began to have an effect, the ratio changed.  From about the early 2000s to about 2020, the ratio was fewer dentists as the population grew.  To compensate, schools increased class sizes and new schools opened.  However the pendulum has begun to swing again.

Now comes word from the ADA's Health Policy Institute that the number of practicing dentists is projected to grow by 10% by the year 2040.  The current number of practicing dentists is about 201,000.  An increase of 10% will increase that number to roughly 221,100 by 2040.  This projected number may well put the ratio again out of balance with where it needs to be.

Of course predicting the future is exactly that... a prediction.  There are a lot of variables to take into account and changing one part of the equation can have a tremendous affect on the others.  This is based on assumptions of population growth, continued graduation rates, and other things.

It's interesting to me because when there were fewer dentists than was needed, the tech revolution came along and greatly increased the efficiency of practices and the actual delivery of care.  With this announcement I'm looking for data mining and marketing to become a focus for the tech side of dentistry.

If you'd like to see the report, you can follow this link.  You will need your ADA logon info to access it.

There is also a nice summary of this info on DrBiscupid's website

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