The Face of Dentistry is Changing

If you’ve ever met Dr. Cody Dunnington, you probably know that her dad is Dr. Glenn Ashmore, founder and owner of Dental Depot. You might also know that she grew up playing dentist with her dad at his private practice, the original Dental Depot on 23rd street. But do you know why Dr. Cody went into dentistry?

“I saw how much my father enjoyed his career and I knew it would provide a good work-life balance for me to be able to have children,” Dr. Cody said.

Her priorities reflect those of many women. To have a job that you enjoy, that gives you the ability to raise a family and to provide for them. Dr. Cody isn’t unique in what she wanted from her career, but she had the drive to make it happen. We believe that anyone who wants those things from a career should consider dentistry, especially women.

In the 19th century, career opportunities for women were limited, to say the least. But that didn’t stop women like Lucy Beaman Hobbs from following her passion and becoming the first woman to earn a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS). It didn’t stop Vada Watson Somerville, a bookkeeper and telephone operator, from earning a scholarship to the University of Southern California and becoming the first African-American woman dentist to graduate from the college. There are women throughout the history of dentistry who looked into the face of adversity and said, Move! What did not exist in the early years of the profession was the representation of women in the field. But this wasn’t for lack of interest.

According to a survey by Indeed.com, one in four women express an interest in healthcare, yet most women in such caring professions tend to be assistants or nurses, not providers.

So maybe it’s time we rethink traditional stereotypes of what a dentist looks like.

Maybe you picture a dentist as a white man, with women and minorities few and far between. The beauty in that though is that it’s just not true anymore. Since the 1980s, women and minorities have been hitting the books and pushing their way into traditionally male-dominated professions, dentistry included.

According to an article in The Atlantic, more and more women are becoming dentists for one main reason — flexibility. It’s possible for dentists to be flexible with their hours to accommodate having a baby or making it to your family functions. And because people will always need to go to the dentist, the income is stable.

The path to becoming a dentist is pretty straightforward, but like anything worth doing, you have to be willing to put in the effort to make it happen.

It looks a little something like this:

  1. Get a bachelor’s degree that’s pre-dental or science related.
  2. Next, you’ll take the Dental Admission Test. You’ll pass it, you’ve worked this hard.
  3. Once you’re done celebrating, it’s four more years of school at a dental college to earn a DDS.
  4. You’re almost there! After passing your boards and final tests, you’ll get a state license.
  5. At this point you can decide to continue your education to specialize in a particular field like orthodontics or endodontics, or jump straight into practicing general dentistry.

Another tip: while you’re in school, make time to find mentors and coaches, like Dr. Katelyn Blanchard did.

“They showed me it was possible to hold your own and excel as a woman both in business and dentistry—all while juggling a family and other commitments,” Dr. Blanchard said.

Today, 31% of dentists are women. In 1978—the same year Dental Depot was founded—women only made up 15% of first-year dental students. Forty years later, women now account for half of dental school graduates.
While 31% doesn’t sound like much right now, that number is projected to just keep climbing as more and more women graduate dental school and older male dentists retire.

Maybe you already work in dentistry as a dental assistant or hygienist—careers that are overwhelmingly pursued by women (90% average in both). Too many dental assistants tell us they wanted to be a dentist, but life got in their way.

We get it. But you can’t let life hold you or your career back. Dental assisting is a worthy, fulfilling profession that is vital to dentistry. But if you became an assistant because you doubted yourself, we urge you to think again.

Don’t keep waiting, don’t keep putting it off. Do it now and do it for you. Think of how much more satisfied with yourself you’ll be knowing that you made your dreams reality.

No matter what path you choose, take a bit of advice from Dr. Cody, “You can’t be afraid to work hard and get your hands dirty.”

Today, we celebrate these women and continue to encourage the growth of women in dentistry and other male-dominated professions. Put in the work, study hard and don’t settle. We know you can do it. And when you’ve made it, come and see all that Dental Depot has to offer. In the meantime, Happy International Women’s Day!

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