Lucy Hobbs Taylor was the first known American woman to enroll in dental school. The year was 1865 and in the three decades that followed, a yearly average of just six women graduated from dental schools in the United States. A lot has changed since then.
Women Making Their Mark in Dentistry
Dental medicine has seen a gradual but steady increase in female applicants to dental school programs. “For context, my wife Dr. Brenda Harman was one of two females in a class of 160 when she entered dental school in 1971,” said Dr. William Harman, Associate Dean for Admissions and Student Services for the College of Dental Medicine. In the last 20 years, the number of women practicing dentistry in the United States has more than doubled to the current figure of approximately 60,000. And while women currently comprise just 32% of the active dental workforce, 2018 was the first year in which female dental school enrollees nationwide outnumbered their male counterparts at 50.5%.
In addition, American Dental Association (ADA) statistics show that close to half (49%) of US dentists under the age of 35 are women. If current trends continue, practicing female dentists will outnumber their male counter parts within the next decade. Similarly, the first class of dental students enrolled at Roseman University in 2011 was comprised of 22% female students. Today, the current enrollment of female students is 47%. And, the current applicant pool reflects a 50/50 split between male and female applicants.
Future of Dentistry
According to the ADA, female dentists continue to face unique challenges in the profession, but they have found and continue to find opportunities to move dentistry forward, contributing in various fields including academia, science and research, organized dentistry and advocacy. As male dentists of the baby boomer generation retire, the next era in dental medicine is likely to be led by women. “The boomers are retiring at a high rate of close to 10,000 per year,” said Kathleen T. O’Loughlin, DMD, the current (and first female) executive director of the ADA. “We are seeing a significant exodus of white males and a huge influx of women. Diverse women and millennials will become the majority of ADA members in the next five to 10 years,” she said. Fourth year dental student and president of the Roseman College of Dental Medicine Class of 2021, Heather Nichols, adds additional perspective, “I have noticed that many of my male classmates have entered the field of dentistry as a second career,” she said. “Whereas many of my female classmates have pursued their doctoral degrees after entering dental medicine as assistants, admins or hygienists,” she continued. “I found the contrast interesting as it occurred to me that women seldom get the luxury of changing careers.”
Dental medicine appeals to women interested in pursuing doctoral degrees for a variety of reasons, but key commonalities have emerged. For instance, female dentists may choose to work in clinical settings that offer flexible working hours and reduced administrative responsibilities. When you consider that women account for half of the US workforce, yet are still responsible for over 60% of household duties (for married of cohabitating heterosexual couples), flexibility in working hours is a key benefit for female practitioners seeking worklife balance.
Dr. Cherish Dunshee graduated from the College of Dental Medicine in 2020 having served as class president for two years and serving as president of the Dental Student Association. “I am now the breadwinner of the family for the first time in my nine-year marriage,” she said. “It’s been the greatest joy for me to provide for my family after being in school for so long, and to see my husband be so supportive and helpful with our one-year old daughter. He goes above and beyond what most fathers do.”
Mentoring the Next Generation
The availability and role of mentors is another key differentiator for women pursing dentistry. Mentorship is an important underpinning of women’s success in dentistry. Mentors don’t just pave the way for mentees’ success at dental school and in practice; they share invaluable wisdom and insights learned through their experiences in a male-dominated profession. “Having female dentists as role models is incredibly important to career decisions at all ages,” said Dr. Harman. College of Dental Medicine faculty, Dr. Angela Christensen agrees. “When I ask a little girl if she wants to be a dentist when she grows up, I see the thought has never occurred to her and then I see excitement as she realizes she could be a dentist too!,” she said. “It is rewarding to open minds to see all the options available. Our patients are (about) 50% female and thus 50% of our dentists are also.”
This is not lost on female dental students who are mindful of the work done by those who have come before. College of Dental Medicine alumnus Dr. Nadine El Ayouty, who served as president of the Class of 2020 and is currently in a post-doctoral program at The Ohio State University added, “The late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg stated, ‘Women will only have true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation.’ I am proud to be part of the next generation of women in dentistry where we are no longer minorities in the field but slowly the majority; becoming leaders in our educational institutions and communities.”
Welcome to Roseman Dental’s Dental 360° monthly e-newsletter. Each month you’ll receive a panoramic view of dental health. Dental health is key to your overall health and here at Roseman Dental, we are dedicated to improving not only your mouth, but your whole self. At our clinic we have an excellent team of licensed dentists, dental residents and students, and dental assistants and hygienists all focused on you and your family’s oral health. We are a one stop shop for all your dental needs and offer dental care at a cost typically lower than what you would find at a traditional dental office. Roseman Dental has been serving its community since 2011 and we look forward to continuing to serve you and your family.
This month is National Nutrition Month®, a month-long national health observance started by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. During the month of March, everyone is invited to learn about making informed food choices and developing healthful eating and physical activity habits. To learn more about National Nutrition Month click here. In this month’s newsletter you’ll also be educated on nutrition and oral health and how they go hand-in-hand. Your oral health and nutritional health affect each other directly and have a bidirectional relationship. Learn more about this important relationship here.
If you are struggling to make ends meet, don’t sacrifice your oral health. Roseman Dental is offering a $250 Dental Care Voucher through the end of this month for new and existing patients. Learn more about it here.
We hope you find Dental 360° helpful and informative. We look forward to connecting with you monthly.
Nutrition and oral health go hand-in-hand. Nutrition and oral health have a bidirectional relationship. Bidirectional means that something functions in two directions, meaning diet and nutrition affect the health of the tissues in the mouth and the health of the mouth affects the nutrients consumed. It’s very difficult to have great overall health, but poor oral health and vice versa.
A healthy lifestyle and healthy mouth are a result of many micro-decisions we make every single day, and habits are hard to change. But being aware of those decisions and how they contribute to a bigger outcome is important. We know it is hard! We suggest that you start with your diet. Diet is key to succeeding in both your oral health and overall health. Consuming too many sugar-filled sodas, sweetened fruit drinks, non-nutritious snacks such as candy and cookies, or any type of food with sugar can put you at risk for tooth decay. In addition, according to the American Dental Association (ADA) if your diet lacks certain nutrients, it may be more difficult for tissues in your mouth to resist infection. This may contribute to gum disease. Severe gum disease is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. Many researchers believe that the disease progresses faster and is potentially more severe in people with poor nutrition.
Having a well-balanced diet will help in preventing tooth decay and gum disease, but diets can be a challenge. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has made it simpler for all of us. USDA has a new form of the original “Food Pyramid” we all grew up with, it’s called MyPlate. MyPlate focuses on starting simple and visually separates a single plate into the 5 essential food groups – fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods and dairy – based on the daily recommended portion size. It is important to note that portion sizes depend on your age, sex, and level of physical activity. The benefits of healthy eating add up over time, bite by bite. It’s important to remember that small changes matter and the first step to a healthier nutritional and oral health lifestyle is through your diet.
Focus on whole fruits. Any fruit or 100% fruit juice counts as part of the Fruit Group. Fruits may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut-up, or pureed. The amount of fruit you need to eat depends on age, sex, and level of physical activity. The amount each person needs can vary between 1 and 2 cups each day.
Vary your veggies. Any vegetable or 100% vegetable juice counts as a member of the Vegetable Group. Vegetables may be raw or cooked; fresh, frozen, canned, or dried/dehydrated; and may be whole, cut-up, or mashed. Based on their nutrient content, vegetables are organized into 5 subgroups: dark green; red and orange; beans, peas, and lentils; starchy; and other vegetables. The amount each person needs can vary between 1 and 3 cups each day.
Make half your grains whole grains. Any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or another cereal grain is a grain product. Bread, pasta, breakfast cereals, grits, and tortillas are examples of grain products. Foods such as popcorn, rice, and oatmeal are also included in the Grains Group. Grains are divided into 2 subgroups: Whole Grains and Refined Grains. Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel ― the bran, germ, and endosperm. Examples of whole grains include whole-wheat flour, bulgur (cracked wheat), oatmeal, whole cornmeal, and brown rice. Refined grains have been milled, a process that removes the bran and germ. This is done to give grains a finer texture and improve their shelf life, but it also removes dietary fiber, iron, and many B vitamins. Some examples of refined grain products are white flour, de-germed cornmeal, white bread, and white rice. Most refined grains are enriched. This means certain B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid) and iron are added back after processing. Fiber is not added back to enriched grains. Check the ingredient list on refined grain products to make sure that the word “enriched” is included in the grain name. Some food products are made from mixtures of whole grains and refined grains. The amount each person needs can vary between 3 and 8 ounce-equivalents each day.
Vary your protein routine. All foods made from seafood; meat, poultry, and eggs; beans, peas, and lentils; and nuts, seeds, and soy products are considered part of the Protein Foods Group. Beans, peas, and lentils are also part of the Vegetable Group. Select a variety of protein foods to improve nutrient intake and health benefits, including at least 8 ounces of cooked seafood per week. Young children need less, depending on their age and calorie needs. The advice to consume seafood does not apply to vegetarians. Vegetarian options in the Protein Foods Group include beans, peas, and lentils, processed soy products, and nuts and seeds. Meat and poultry choices should be lean or low-fat. The amount each person needs can vary between 2 and 6½ ounce-equivalents each day.
Move to low-fat or fat-free dairy milk or yogurt (or lactose-free dairy or fortified soy versions). The Dairy Group includes milk, yogurt, cheese, lactose-free milk and fortified soy milk and yogurt. It does not include foods made from milk that have little calcium and a high fat content, such as cream cheese, sour cream, cream, and butter. About 90% of Americans do not get enough dairy, therefore most individuals would benefit by increasing intake of fat-free or low-fat dairy, whether from milk (including lactose-free milk), yogurt, and cheese, or from fortified soy milk or yogurt. The amount of dairy foods you need each day depends on your age and can vary between 1 ½ to 2 cups for toddlers, 2 ½ cups for children under 10 and 3 cups for older children through adults.
For more detailed dietary recommendations for children and adults based on their levels of physical activity visit ChooseMyPlate.gov. The USDA has a number of resources including videos, downloadable print materials, and a tool kit that includes a personalized plan calculator, an app and quizzes that can help you improve your nutrition and oral health by starting small and simple. Remember change happens one day at a time, one bite at a time.
Don’t forget that brushing twice a day for two minutes, flossing daily and visiting your dentist regularly (at least every 6 months) also contributes to good oral and overall health. If you haven’t been to the dentist in a while, make sure to schedule an appointment with Roseman Dental today. We can help get your oral health back on track at the same time you’re working on your nutritional health.
National Nutrition Month® is an annual campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. During the month of March, everyone is invited to learn about making informed food choices and developing healthful eating and physical activity habits. This year’s theme is “Personalize Your Plate.” There is no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition and health. We are all unique with different bodies, goals, backgrounds and tastes! And a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist can tailor a healthful eating plan that is as special as you are.
Each week individuals and families are challenged to focus on different aspects of their nutrition.
Week One: Eat a variety of nutritious foods every day!
Include healthful foods from all food groups.
Learn how to read Nutrition Facts Panels.
Avoid distractions while eating.
Take time to enjoy your food.
Week Two: Plan your meals each week!
Use a grocery list to shop for healthful foods.
Be menu-savvy when dining out.
Choose healthful eating at school and at work.
Plan healthful eating while traveling.
Week Three: Learn skills to create tasty meals!
Keep healthful ingredients on hand.
Practice proper home food safety.
Share meals together as a family when possible.
Reduce food waste.
Try new flavors and foods.
Week Four: Consult a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)!
Ask your doctor for a referral to an RDN.
Receive personalized nutrition advice to meet your goals.
Meet RDNs in a variety of settings throughout the community.
Find an RDN who is specialized to serve your unique needs.
Thrive through the transformative power of food and nutrition.
It is important to make nutrition a priority, but it can be hard to know where to start. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a vast resource library full of helpful handouts, activity sheets and videos focused on areas that include weight loss, planning and prepping of meals, nutrition, exercise and more. To view the full video library, click here.
Below you will find a list of helpful downloadable handouts and activity sheets to get you and your family started down the right path to a healthy nutritional lifestyle.