Additionally, while the number of applicants from underrepresented minority groups has been on the rise in recent years, these numbers remain too low to have an immediate impact.

There are several ways in which to consider the appropriate number of dentists. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) defines dental health professional shortage areas (HPSAs) according to several factors related to access; this definition roughly approximates when the dentist-to-population ratio rises to 1 to 5,000 (HRSA, 2009a). In the early 2000s, there were less than 2,000 dental HPSAs. By 2008, this number climbed to over 4,000 dental HPSAs, representing 49 million residents (HRSA, 2009b). Another data point is the number of professionally active dentists per 100,000 population, which has been decreasing for several years and is expected to continue to decrease (see Figure 4-1). However, this may be attributable in part to the increased use of technology or other oral health professionals.

FIGURE 4-1 Number of professionally active dentists per 100,000 U.S. population, 1976–2020.

FIGURE 4-1 Number of professionally active dentists per 100,000 U.S. population, 1976–2020.

NOTE: Data for the years 2010–2020 are projected.

SOURCE: Personal communication, W. Wendling, ADA. May 5, 2009.



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