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Looming Concerns For Dental Professionals

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One of the major concerns currently in the United States is the fear that dentists might soon be a thing of the past?as it seems that there are less dentists entering the workforce, while more are retiring. American Dental Educational Association President and CEO Dr. Rick Valachovic and Marko Vujicic, PhD, Chief Economist and Vice President of the Health Policy Institute at the American Dental Association explored the issue

They found that the number are positive for dentists, with roughly 5200 young dentists graduating from dental school in 2012 and entering the workforce compared to 3600 dentists who retired in 2013.

?We?re not seeing retirements exceed graduations in many years at all,? Vujicic said. ?The preliminary projections we have so far indicate either a slightly rising or a stable dentist-to-population ratio over the long term.?

As clinicians prepare to retire in their late 60s, dental educators are also preparing to walk away for good, leaving dental schools with an immediate need. At schools like Creighton, 50% of the full-time faculty is over age 60 and 35% is over age 65. Some alumni from other schools have expressed interest in coming back to their alma matter to teach young professionals, according to the report. 

?We have 2 people now who want to join the faculty who may prove to be models for the future: a midcareer individual who wants to move an active clinical practice to the school and a young person who wants the opportunity to teach while simultaneously growing her intramural practice,? Dean Bill Dodge, DDS, at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio Dental School said. ?They are exactly the kind of people we need, and not just for financial reasons. They?re the best role models we have to demonstrate the faculty career as a viable option.?   

In addition, dentists are also affected by the Affordable Care Act, which will push more children and the elderly to visit the dentist more often, while adults will seek less care. 

?Concurrently, demand for dental services is reaching a plateau. Even with more older Americans living longer and retaining their teeth, working-age adults are using less dental care, so the ADA projects only a trickle of increased demand for adult dental services in the coming decades if current trends continue.?

?It?s an interesting puzzle,? Vujicic said. ?We have over all pretty sluggish growth in demand, except among the Medicaid population, seniors and children. So the key question for the dental education community is, are you training the ?right? kind of dentists? Are you training your graduates so that they can work in settings where the demand for dental care will grow??

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