In dentistry, diversity matters (2024)

The minority population of the United States is growing — the U.S. censusput it at nearly 40% in 2019. Despite this, ethnic and racial disparity persists within the dental industry, both in terms of who receives care and who provides it.

Gaps in dental care for minorities are significant

While the gap has closed somewhat in the past decade, utilization of dental care among minorities, including Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans, still significantly trails that of whites.

  • While almost half of white adults visited a dentist between 2017 and 2018, fewer than a third of Black and Hispanic adults did, according to data from the American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute. This gap was even more pronounced among seniors.
  • Black adults are also far more likely to have untreated tooth decay and lose their teethby age 65 than whites.
  • While they fare slightly better than minority adults, children of color visit the dentist less often than white children, are less likely to receive preventive care and are more likely to have untreated decay.
  • Among Native American children, more than 40% have untreated tooth decay, compared with only about 10% for white children.

For people of color, cost is a significantly greater barrier to dental care than it is for their white counterparts. And this gap is growing — since 2005, the cost of seeing a dentist has increasingly become more of an issue for Black and Hispanic adults and seniors than it has for whites.

  • In 2019 almost 30% of black seniors reported that the cost of dental care was an issue, compared with only about 10% for white seniors.
  • The number of Black seniors reporting cost as a barrier to care has increased nearly 20% since2005.
  • The number of white seniors who reported cost as a barrier has increased only 6% during the same period.
  • Cost has become less of a barrier to dental care for minority children since 2005, in part because dental services for children are nowa mandatory benefit within Medicaid.

Language can also create a barrier to dental care. For instance, a study found that limited English proficiencyis related to oral health and dentist visits. Among the groups studied, Spanish-speaking Hispanics reported the poorest oral health, most infrequent dentist visits and fewest teeth. Limited English proficiency can also be a barrier to dental care for some Asian populations.

There’s also a significant lack of diversity among dentists

Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans are severely underrepresented among dentists in the United States, and this situation has remained largely unchanged for more than a decade.

  • As the white population of the United States has decreased during the past 15 years, so has the number of white dentists. However, whites are still overrepresented, with 60% of the population contributing more than 70% of its dentists.
  • Asians are significantly overrepresented, contributing 18% of the country’s dentists despite making up only 5.6% of the population.
  • Meanwhile, the Hispanic population in the United States has increased to around 18% from 14% during the same period. Despite this, the percentage of Hispanic dentists in the U.S. has increased only slightly, to6%.
  • For the Black community, both its percentage of the population and the dental pool has remained unchanged, making up only about 4% of the country’s dentists despite comprising more than 12% of the population.

Among dental assistants, situation is more encouraging. More than 30% of registered dental assistants are Hispanic and 7% are Asian, and the majority are women. However, Blacks are also underrepresented here; fewer than 7% of dental assistants areBlack.

Looking toward the future, there is some cause for optimism.

  • The number of women dentistsin the U.S. is increasing. They’re also more ethnically diverse than their male counterparts, with a larger percentage of Hispanics and Blacks.
  • Applications to dental schools by underrepresented minoritieshave risen, increasing to more than 15% in 2015 from 12% in2000.
  • Dental school enrollments were also up during the same period, with underrepresented minorities making up about 5% more of the student population in 2015 than they did in2000.
  • Dental school enrollment among Native Americans has seen significant gains, according to a 2019 study.

However, the 2019 study also found that Black enrollment in dental schools is stagnant. And despite the growing dental school enrollment numbers among minorities, population parity among U.S. dentists is still a long wayoff.

For example, dental school enrollees from underrepresented minorities in 2015 totaled less than 2%of the dentists needed to achieve true parity among dentists in the United States.

Why diversity matters

Minority dentists are crucial to ensure that diverse communities have access to dental care. Studies have shownthat while minorities make up a disproportionately small percentage of the country’s dentists, they provide a disproportionately large share of the dental care to our nation’s minority and underserved communities.

  • 40% of Black dentists report that more than half of the patients they serve areBlack.
  • Native Americans dentists report than more than 20% of their patients are Native American, even though Native Americans make up less than 2% of the U.S. population.
  • Minority dentists also serve a much-higher-than-average number of patients on public insurance than do white dentists.
  • Conversely, while white dentists make up the majority of dentists in the U.S., they’re also the least likely to participate in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
  • More than half of Black, Hispanic and Native American children are insured through Medicaid and CHIPor another form of public insurance, as opposed to only about a quarter of white children.

Trust is another issue. Studies have indicated that minorities, particularly those in lower socioeconomic brackets, often havea higher level of distrustfor physicians than do whites.

However, when treated by a physician of their own race or ethnicity, not only are minority patientsmore trusting, they’re also more likely to be satisfied with their level of care, receive preventive care and agree to necessary procedures.

How to make your practice more culturally inclusive

Cultural awareness and sensitivity has become more important than ever for an inclusive practice. A great way to ensure that your practice is inclusive is to develop cultural competence.

An important part of cultural competence is taking action, with the goal of improving your service and creating better outcomes for your patients. Another crucial component of cultural competence is being able to communicate effectively with your patients:

  • Try to learn a few relevant phrases (hello, goodbye, please, thank you, open your mouth) for your low English proficiency patients. To help you communicate with Spanish-speaking patients, Delta Dental offers a downloadable English-to-Spanish phrase guidefor dentists.
  • Ask whether anyone on your staff is at least partly fluent in another language — you might already have a valuable resource. If not, considering hiring staff members who are bilingual or multilingual. Don’t forget to update your Delta Dental directory listing to reflect the languages you and your staffspeak.
  • Make health and wellness materials available in relevant languages. Delta Dental offers a variety of Spanish-language health education materials, includingGrin! magazine and wellness videos.

How Delta Dental canhelp

Delta Dental offers a variety of resources to help you create a culturally inclusive practice.

  • Delta Dental’s Language Assistance Program (LAP) offers enrollees interpretation via telephone in more than 170 languages.
  • On-site interpreters are also available for Delta Dental enrollees with limited English proficiency — at no cost to the enrollee or you. (Onsite interpretation services require at least 72 hours advanced notice.
  • You can learn more about the LAP by logging in to Provider Toolsand navigating to the Reference Library.

As part of our commitment to fight racism and build minority representation in the dentistry profession, Delta Dental plans to partner with universities to provide scholarships for qualified applicants who are Black, Hispanic or represent other communities ofcolor.

Finally, to advance dental health and access, the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation alsosupports dozens of agencies and nonprofitsthat provide dental care to underserved and minority populations.

In dentistry, diversity matters (2024)


Why is diversity important in dentistry? ›

Ensuring a diverse dental workforce is critical to the success of the profession. When dentists are men and women from all types of backgrounds, races and ethnicities, it makes the care the profession provides better for everyone. Actively encourage minorities with an interest in dentistry to apply to dental school.

Do dental schools care about diversity? ›

The new standards recognize diversity as an essential component of academic excellence. They call on dental schools to educate dentists with the interpersonal and communication skills needed to manage a diverse patient population.

What is dental diversity? ›

What is Diversity in Dentistry? Diversity in dentistry refers to representing people from different backgrounds and identities to create an inclusive and equitable field. This includes dental professionals from varying races, genders, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic statuses.

What is equality & diversity in dentistry? ›

This means no tolerance to discrimination or harassment. Diversity means recognising and understanding people's different background, beliefs, skills and experiences. The practice should operate without prejudice or discrimination, and should be supportive and inclusive at all times.

Why is diversity so important and needed? ›

Diversity brings in new ideas and experiences, and people can learn from each other. Bringing in different ideas and perspectives leads to better problem-solving. Working in diverse teams opens dialogue and promotes creativity. The value of diversity is true for our culture, too.

Why is diversity more important? ›

Diversity is important in today's world because it helps us learn from each other and understand that everyone is unique and special in their own way. Just like how each person has their own interests, hobbies, and talents, people also have different backgrounds, cultures, and experiences.

Why is diversity and inclusion important in medical school? ›

Improving diversity within healthcare is essential to open opportunities to groups currently underrepresented in medicine, reduce health care disparities, improve patient outcomes, expand research protocols, and enhance medi- cal education.

What is the benefit of diversity in medical school? ›

Medical students and faculty from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds teach each other about the cultures, beliefs, and values of their communities.

Why do schools look for diversity? ›

A recent study in the journal “Child Development” illustrated that students feel safer in school and in life when they are educated in a diverse setting. Students are able to learn about different cultures and backgrounds, allowing them to feel a greater sense of comfort with these differences.

Why does diversity matter in healthcare? ›

Diversity in health care helps ensure all backgrounds, beliefs, ethnicities, and perspectives are adequately represented in the medical field. It's about providing the best possible care for all patients.

Why is diversity an issue in healthcare? ›

Risks of Lack of Diversity in Healthcare

It has been demonstrated that, broadly speaking, people with diverse racial and ethnic identities have unfavorable social determinants of health such as a lack of access to high-quality education, housing, and food.

What does diversity mean in the medical field? ›

In the medical community, diversity often refers to the inclusion of healthcare professionals, trainees, educators, researchers, and patients of varied race, ethnicity, gender, disability, social class, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity, primary spoken language, and geographic region.

What are the benefits of equality diversity and inclusion? ›

Equality, diversity and inclusion
  • make it more successful.
  • keep employees happy and motivated.
  • prevent serious or legal issues arising, such as bullying, harassment and discrimination.
  • to better serve a diverse range of customers.
  • improve ideas and problem-solving.
  • attract and keep good staff.

What is diversity equality or inclusion? ›

In summary, the difference between equality, diversity, and inclusion is that equality means making sure everyone can access the same opportunities, whereas diversity means valuing the differences between people, and inclusion is a measure of how safe and welcome people feel in their environment.

What is equality and diversity example? ›

Equality – all people will be treated fairly, irrespective of their age, sex or race. Diversity – the range of people in the workforce will be diverse. There will be a good mix of ages, religions, sexual preferences, cultures and disabilities, including both men and women.

What is the most important thing in diversity? ›

1) Diversity drives creativity and innovation

Every culture, every nationality, every single person sees the world in a different way. Similarly, every culture, nationality, and person has different knowledge, perspectives, and points of view. When all of these different views are shared together, miracles can happen.

What diversity is and why it matters? ›

Diversity in the workplace means having a workforce inclusive of different backgrounds and national origins. It means gender, socioeconomic, and cultural diversity — and beyond. It also means that the organization fosters a sense of belonging that makes everyone feel like they are part of the team.

How does diversity matter? ›

Diversity is a key ingredient for better decision-making among teams. Homogenous groups may be susceptible to groupthink,20 while diverse teams can leverage a greater variety of perspectives and are likely to consider information more thoroughly and accurately.

How does diversity make us stronger? ›

Diversity promotes critical thinking

In addition, Scientific American found that exposure to diversity changes the way people think and ultimately improves innovation, creativity, and problem-solving skills, which makes us smarter.

Why is it important to embrace diversity and inclusion? ›

D&I allows organizations to be more inclusive of different ideas, cultures and lifestyles, leading to improved company culture. It also puts companies in the position to hire the best employees from a diverse and often untapped candidate pool while increasing customer satisfaction with their services.

How will you impact diversity and inclusion in healthcare? ›

Encourage training and development: Don't overlook formal training. Training and development programs can educate staff about recognizing unconscious biases to challenge assumptions. Create development opportunities for women and minorities: Women and minorities receive fewer assignments that can spur career growth.

Why is diversity and equity important in healthcare? ›

Ensuring DEI efforts are in place and effective will help healthcare organizations improve communication, increase patient satisfaction, and ultimately deliver higher-quality care.

How to answer diversity question on medical school application? ›

How to approach this question
  1. Make a list of the ways in which your past experiences, who you are, and the way you think adds a unique perspective.
  2. If one of the main reasons why you think you are unique is because of your experiences, reflect on why you chose to pursue those experiences and what you got out of them.

Why do we need diverse doctors? ›

A diverse physician workforce means better health outcomes for underserved and minority patients and better paid jobs for minority health care providers.

How do you write a good diversity statement for medical school? ›

To write a powerful diversity essay, take the following steps:
  1. Identify what makes you unique. ...
  2. After brainstorming, pick one to three meaningful experiences to fulfill the diversity essay prompt. ...
  3. Outline the structure of your diversity essay. ...
  4. Write the first draft. ...
  5. Revise and edit your diversity essay.
Aug 8, 2022

How do schools encourage diversity? ›

Ways to Support Diversity in Education

Establishing practices in human resources practices that consider cultural backgrounds of teachers and staff members and demonstrate support for diversity and inclusion. Encouraging teachers to use inclusive teaching methods in the classroom.

What is a quote about diversity in school? ›

How here are some great diversity and tolerance quotes for kids:
  • “In diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” – Maya Angelou.
  • “Diversity is the one true thing we all have in common. ...
  • #Differentisbeautiful – The Happy Soul Project.
  • Difference is of the essence of humanity.

How can we support diversity? ›

How to promote diversity and inclusivity in the workplace
  1. Work to highlight and remove bias + ...
  2. Recognise awareness, cultural, and religious holidays + ...
  3. Diversity and inclusion training for employees + ...
  4. Have clear diversity and inclusivity policies + ...
  5. Ensure equal pay for equal work + ...
  6. Write inclusive job ads +

How do you bring an objective awareness to diversity? ›

Ways to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace
  1. Be aware of unconscious bias.
  2. Communicate the importance of managing bias.
  3. Promote pay equity.
  4. Develop a strategic training program.
  5. Acknowledge holidays of all cultures.
  6. Make it easy for your people to participate in employee resource groups.
  7. Mix up your teams.
Jun 21, 2022

What problems do diversity give us? ›

Let's explore what those are, and how you might overcome them.
  • Communication issues. ...
  • Cultural misunderstandings. ...
  • Slower decision making. ...
  • Inequitable inclusion. ...
  • Discrimination. ...
  • Final thoughts on the challenges of diversity in the workplace. ...
  • Need DEI Training?

How do you show diversity in healthcare? ›

How to Promote Diversity in Healthcare
  1. Create a Welcoming Environment. Foster an environment of inclusiveness in every area possible. ...
  2. Address Issues of Bias Quickly and Openly. ...
  3. Encourage Diverse Applicants. ...
  4. Diversity for More Than Diversity's Sake. ...
  5. Listen.
Jun 1, 2022

What are five diversity issues that affect? ›

We've highlighted 5 critical diversity issues in the workplace, to help businesses and organisations identify key areas for development.
  • Communication (or lack of) ...
  • Harassment. ...
  • Unconscious Bias. ...
  • Generation Gaps. ...
  • Diversity without inclusion.

Why is diversity important in the workplace? ›

Research has found that diversifying your team can boost productivity by 35%.. A diverse workforce is more likely to understand your customers' needs and come up with ideas to fulfill them. Diversity in the workplace will also increase employee morale and instill a desire to be more effective and work more efficiently.

How do you deal with cultural diversity in healthcare? ›

  1. Provide interpreter services.
  2. Recruit and retain minority staff.
  3. Provide training to increase cultural awareness, knowledge, and skills.
  4. Coordinate with traditional healers.
  5. Use community health workers.
  6. Incorporate culture-specific attitudes and values into health promotion tools.

How to answer interview questions on equality and diversity? ›

When asked a question about diversity, discuss your direct experiences with people of different cultures. Refrain from saying you don't see color. Instead, explain the value of honoring diverse cultures and learning from others. If you are sincere in your answers to diversity questions, your true character will shine.

What are the key principles of diversity? ›

Our seven principles on diversity and inclusion at the workplace
  • Hiring without discrimination: ...
  • Closing the wage gap: ...
  • Non–exclusion of parents: ...
  • Flexibility for parents: ...
  • Building awareness and offering education on D&I: ...
  • Counteracting fraud: ...
  • Having at least one woman in the most senior roles.
Jan 13, 2021

What is diversity in simple words? ›

Diversity means having a range of people with various racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and cultural backgrounds and various lifestyles, experience, and interests. Having a variety of individuals and points of view represented in the department. Diversity is a group of people who are different in the same place.

What is an example of diversity? ›

Examples of diversity include visible diversity such as age, ethnicity, gender, physical abilities/qualities, race. Invisible diversity examples are sexual orientation, educational background, and work experiences. Personal diversity includes religion, geographical location, and general worldview.

What is diversity and inclusion in simple words? ›

Diversity is about representation or the make-up of an entity. Inclusion is about how well the contributions, presence and perspectives of different groups of people are valued and integrated into an environment.

What are 5 examples of diversity? ›

Here's a breakdown of these forms of diversity:
  • Cultural diversity. This type of diversity is related to each person's ethnicity and it's usually the set of norms we get from the society we were raised in or our family's values. ...
  • Race diversity. ...
  • Religious diversity. ...
  • Age diversity. ...
  • Sex / Gender / Sexual orientation. ...
  • Disability.

How do you demonstrate commitment to diversity and inclusion? ›

Top 10 ways employers can demonstrate commitment to diversity and inclusion
  1. Be open about gender pay inequality/equality. ...
  2. Be aware of unconscious bias. ...
  3. Acknowledge religious and cultural holidays. ...
  4. Encourage frequent employee feedback. ...
  5. Be aware of ageism and strive for a multigenerational workforce.

What is equality and diversity interview questions? ›

Tell Me About a Time When You Advocated for Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace. Can You Give Me an Example of How You Make Your Direct Reports Feel a Sense of Inclusion, Belonging, and Equity on a Daily Basis? What Steps Will You Take to Eliminate Bias From Your Hiring Process?

Why is diversity important in healthcare professions? ›

Espousing diversity in healthcare can lead to cultural competency and the ability of healthcare providers to offer services that meet the unique social, cultural, and linguistic needs of their patients. In short, the better a patient is represented and understood, the better they can be treated.

Why diversity and inclusion is important in the legal field? ›

Diversity is important in law because it creates a better reflection of society as a whole, enabling firms and legal departments to better serve their clients. For lawyers and their organizations, a diverse workplace also creates new opportunities and leads to better employee engagement and retention.

Why is diversity important for medical students? ›

Diversity makes our institutions reflective of the communities we serve. Patients will trust us more. A diverse research workforce also makes for more scientifically innovative teams and helps us attract students and faculty from diverse communities.

How does diversity improve patient care? ›

More inclusivity and representation amongst healthcare professionals can help ease patient anxieties, increase compliance, and improve outcomes as well. The more healthcare providers can reflect the demographics and diversity of their community, the more patients will feel represented and understood.

How important is diversity equity and inclusion to you? ›

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are important to company culture because they foster creativity, fresh perspectives, and understanding. By implementing DE&I, people of different races, abilities, ages, genders, religion, sexual orientation, and other diverse backgrounds can be made more comfortable in the workplace.

Why do you believe diversity and inclusion is a key area of importance for effectively leading a sport organization? ›

The advantages of openly celebrating differences are abundant. When people feel included, empowered, and respected, it creates trust and a feeling of belonging within your organization. From a business standpoint, this leads to increased creativity, innovation, and productivity.

Why diversity is necessary to a healthy law school and classroom and to the legal profession? ›

Access to justice is essential for a democratic society, and diversity in the legal profession increases the likelihood of access for people from an increasingly diverse population. Law school diversity enables individuals from a wide range of backgrounds to add their perspectives to the greater legal community.

Why is diversity and equity important in medicine? ›

Improving diversity within healthcare is essential to open opportunities to groups currently underrepresented in medicine, reduce health care disparities, improve patient outcomes, expand research protocols, and enhance medical education.


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