The Black dentist workforce in the United States

Elizabeth Mertz, Jean Calvo, Cynthia Wides, Paul Gates

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Objectives: The purpose of this paper is to describe the Black dentist workforce, the practice patterns of providers, and their contributions to oral health care for minority and underserved patients. Methods: A national sample survey of underrepresented minority dentists was conducted in 2012 and received a 32.6 percent response rate for self-reported Black dentists. Data were weighted for selection and response bias to be nationally representative. Descriptive and multivariable statistics were computed to provide a workforce profile of Black dentists. National comparisons are provided from published data. Results: Among all Black dentists (weighted n = 6,254), 76.6 percent self-identify as African-American, 13.2 percent as African, and 10.3 percent as Afro-Caribbean. The largest share of Black dentists are male, married, heterosexual, born in the United States and raised in a medium to large city. One third of Black dentists were the first in their family to graduate from college. Black dentists report higher average educational debt than all dental students, with graduates from International Dentist Programs having the greatest debt. Traditional practices (i.e., private practices) dominate, with 67.1 percent of Black dentists starting out in this setting and 73.5 percent currently in the setting. Black dentists care for a disproportionate share of Black patients, with an average patient mix that is 44.9 percent Black. Two in five Black dentists reported their patient pool is made up of more than 50 percent Black patients. Conclusions: The underrepresentation for Black dentists is extraordinary, and the Black dentists that are in practice are shouldering a disproportionate share of dental care for minority and underserved communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-147
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Public Health Dentistry
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2017


  • African-Americans
  • dentist's practice patterns
  • health workforce
  • survey research


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