Diversity in Dentistry in the UK

Diverse dental team of Female dentist and dental assistant operating on a female patient.

Is Dentistry as Diverse as You Think It Is?

Try to think about what your dentist looked like when you were younger, can you remember? Was your dentist a male? Was your dentist a person of colour? If I was a betting man, I definitely know what I’d bet your dentist looked like. 

Even though we are now in the 21st century and we have come a long way in our fight for equality and diversity in dentistry in particular and the wider workforce in general, this article will investigate whether that really is the case in the UK. 

Dentistry, like many other healthcare professions, has struggled with the historical legacy of being conceptualised as a profession dominated by white males. It is widely acknowledged that there are many social benefits to having a multicultural health force but dentistry is one healthcare field that even now, in the 21st century, is still lacking the diversity it needs to represent the population.

Now the question we all want to know is, has that changed now? In 2021, are we still stuck living in the stereotype that all our dentists will most probably primarily be white male?

A Diverse Dental Workforce

Ensuring a diverse dental workforce is absolutely critical to the success of the profession. When dentists are both male and females from all types of backgrounds, ethnicities and races, it makes the care the profession provides inclusive and better for both patients and staff.

Many people have been under the assumption that being in 2021, we were progressing and we’re heading towards a more diverse society promoting as many opportunities for all those from different backgrounds to succeed at any profession they may want to pursue in a fair way. What re-sparked tabloid interest in this specific subject matter and shed much needed light on the fact that we may not be progressing as much as we should be, is the Black Lives Matter protests. They reminded us all that as a society within the UK, unconscious bias and prejudices still exist throughout our workforce. So is this inequality portrayed within the world of dentistry? 

Many minority ethnic groups including black British dentists and dental care professionals are widely under-represented in the UK workforce. The cause for this itself is multifactorial which we won’t look into in great depth, the fact alone represents that dentistry in the UK is not as diverse as it may be perceived. 

So, What Does This Mean? 

The facts state that these groups are underrepresented within Dentistry, but that doesn’t mean that the industry itself is not progressing to be more diverse. 

Over the last ten years, the focus of the government has been to improve the social diversity of the medical and dental workforce. The data suggests that there is progress being made, while it may be minute, the progress is excelling. Statistics show that people of minority ethnic groups, females and all those from BAME backgrounds are slowly entering the healthcare workforce changing their representation statistics. 

Women in Dentistry 

In 1999 there were not many female dentists at all let alone any ethnic diversity to exist within the industry. The change over the last two decades has shown immense progression within the entire dental industry.

The age of women not being able to find quality jobs has come a very long way over the years. While employment has improved, the wage gap between men and women still very actively exists. The surge in women-owned businesses in 2018 has proven to be driven by a combination of both necessity and the increased opportunity available.

The increasing number of women pursuing careers in dentistry is shifting the demographic makeup of the dental workforce.  

While the number of women working in NHS dentistry is steadily rising, there may be a reason as to why we aren’t seeing an increase in the amount of female dental practice owners. This is because statistics show that only 45% of female dental associates intend to leave the NHS while 66% of their male counterparts do intend to leave the NHS and go into a private dental practice.

A similar trend is also portrayed with the statistics accumulated by those in the dental industry. These statistics show that the percentage of male dental associates who have aspirations of owning their own dental practice is double the number of females who have aspirations to own their own dental practice, which explains why many dental practice owners are male.

These statistics portray that maybe success in dentistry isn’t limited to gender, they simply have different aspirations and more female dental associates and practice owners are happier to work under the NHS than their male counterparts and those who are associates are less motivated to have any practice ownership aspirations. 

It is widely acknowledged that there are many social benefits to having a multicultural health force, including ensuring that there is less of a barrier around access for underrepresented BAME groups. Despite the growth over the last decade or so, certain healthcare professions, more specifically; dentistry, have struggled with changing their historical legacy of being conceptualised as a ‘white’ profession and the question or whether it is ethnically representative of the public it serves. 

It is important for dental practices to continue to diversify their teams and to remain inclusive and supportive at all times. As a dental practice owner it is your job to protect your patients and your staff through effective regulation. 

What is Your Dental Practice Responsible For?

To ensure that your practice should operate without prejudice or discrimination and should be both inclusive and supportive at all times. Staff members as well as patients should be treated fairly irrespective or any personal circumstances of background.

It is the overall responsibility of the dental care provider and manager to provide a welcoming, informative and supportive practice for both patients and employees. Every practice should operate without any prejudice or discrimination and should be inlcusive at all times. Everyone in the practice including both staff members and patients should be treated fairly irrespective of any circumstances or backgrounds.

Every employee and potential employee should have access to fair recruitment programs, the working conditions should be the same for everyone and all people should have equal employment opportunities. 

This means that all patients and all staff should be treated fairly and equally by the employer and registered manager of care. 

Going forward…

Diversity means being inclusive to all aspects of race, gender, disability or sexuality and we have to be open to the fact that although things are progressing, they could definitely be better. If we do not have a diverse leadership within the industry, we run a real risk of disengaging younger colleagues who will then feel like they do not fit. If you cannot see it, you can’t be it, if women aren’t women or those of ethnic minorities, will these aspiring dental practice owners even be able to believe that it is achievable? If they cannot see it, they will not believe it’s possible. 

The increasing number of women and many ethnic minorities pursuing careers in dentistry is shifting the demographic makeup of the dental workforce. It allows for many opportunities for growth and innovation within the industry consisting of varying backgrounds and perspectives. 

Starting a Dental Practice: Get Started

We’ve been helping the UK’s dentists start their own practices for nearly 20 years and we know exactly what it takes to make your practice a success!

Our Dental Practice Start-up Programme is a hands-on consultancy service designed to take you through your whole journey to becoming a dental practice owner. Book a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our team at a time that suits you (including evenings). We’ll call you back and have a chat about how we can help start your dream practice.

Contact us today for all the advice, support and expertise you’ll ever need to start a dental practice.

Learn More: Starting a Dental Practice

For more information please check out the articles and webinars in the start a dental practice section of our Learning Centre, like our guide on How to Start a Dental Practice in 13 Steps.

For all our previous articles, webinars and video updates, subscribe to our YouTube channel and follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.