Women in dentistry
In a nutshell
The number of women working in NHS dentistry is steadily rising.
In 2014/15 in England, the number of female dentists stood at 11,285, a 3.1 per cent increase on the previous year, and a 44.2 per cent increase on 2006/07 (HSCIC NHS Dental Statistics).
The under 35 and the 35-44 age groups have a greater number of female dentists working than male dentists.
In the under 35 age group, 57 per cent of the workforce are female and in the 35-44 age group, 51 per cent are female.
Across the UK
Dentists by gender (England), 2006/07 to 2014/15 (HSCIC NHS Dental Statistics)
This pattern is also being repeated across the devolved nations. In Northern Ireland, the General Dental Service workforce is becoming increasingly female; 52 per cent in 2015 (Skills for Health, Workforce Planning Review of Dental Services in Northern Ireland, 2016).
In Scotland, female NHS general dental practitioners also is rising, in 1995 less than 30 per cent of GDPS were female, but in 2013, almost 47 per cent were female (NHS National Services Scotland Dental Workforce Report 2014).
According to 2012 figures in Wales, almost 60 per cent of NHS dentists were male, although amongst younger dentists (and dental undergraduates) the gender ratio is now closer to 50:50.
Females working in the community dental service in Wales is dominated by females, with 67 per cent working in the service.
What does it mean for dentistry?
This changing demographic of the dental workforce is raising issues around working patterns, practice models, professional incomes, specialty training and practice and leadership.
A recent (2015) BDA survey of dentists working as associates in England, females report lower monthly incomes than their male counterparts.
Ten per cent of women report monthly gross earnings of £6,000-£7,999 compared to 27 per of men on the same income bracket. Women are more likely to be earning in the lower bracket of £2,000-£3,999, 25 per cent report to be in this bracket, compared to 14 per cent of male respondents.
Our survey revealed that women in this group are more likely to be working part-time, 54 per cent said they worked 30 hours or less (compared to 27 per cent of men working part-time), with men reporting more full time working, 72 per cent of men said they worked more than 30 hours, compared to 45 per cent of women, which may go some way to explaining the lower reported incomes, but there are possibly other factors at work under the current NHS contract that may negatively impact on female dentist's earning potential.
What is the BDA doing?
The BDA would like to see more research and analysis done that looks at the impact of the growing numbers of women in the profession, how their careers are faring under the current NHS contract and what impact this gender shift may have on dental careers and patient care.
We support International Women's Day which takes place on 8th March each year.
Share your story
Read our profiles of some inspiring women in dentistry here.
We are keen to hear your comments on the issue of gender parity in dentistry, or to find out which female dentists have helped inspire your career, please get in touch and let us know
About the BDA
Through policy and campaigning work, the BDA is able to ensure that the concerns of all sections of the profession are raised and that dentists' voices are heard at a national level: Join us.
You can also follow updates from the BDA on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.