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HPI projects increase in supply of dentists by 2040

By Kimber Solana
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The ADA Health Policy Institute is projecting that there will be a significant increase in the supply of dentists by 2040.
   
According to the research brief, “Projected Supply of Dentists in the United States, 2020-2040,” published in May, the HPI projects 67 dentists per 100,000 people in the U.S. in 2040 — up from 60.7 in 2020. The data is also higher than earlier projections of 63.7 dentists per 100,000 people in 2037.

The projection doesn’t attempt to make any judgments on the demand for the future dentist workforce, according to the research brief’s authors, senior research analyst Bradley Munson and chief economist Marko Vujicic, Ph.D.

“Nevertheless, we feel our analysis is a major contribution to the evidence base as it leverages unique data and builds modeling scenarios based on empirical analyses of dentist behavior,” the authors wrote. “It also incorporates the effects of shifting dentist demographics in respect to hours worked and volume of patient visits.”

To make the projection, the HPI used five data sources in the analysis. These included the ADA databases that contains the most up-to-date information on dentists, practicing and nonpracticing in the U.S; the U.S. Census Bureau; the ADA’s Survey of Dental Education; the ADA’s Survey of Dental Practice; and the “U.S. Business Cycle Expansions and Contractions” table from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Other findings from the research brief include:
• The dentist workforce will continue to get younger. The share of dentists ages 55 and older increased from 27% in 2001 to a peak of 40% in 2013-16. This share decreased to 37% in 2020, and HPI projects it will decrease to 33% in 2040.
• Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, HPI research suggested that the pandemic could result in an increase in retirement rates among older dentists. This is not the case as of May 2021. Dentist retirement rates have been rising steadily since 2013 and there is no change in this trend due to COVID-19, as of HPI’s most recent analysis of retirement trends.
• The female share of the U.S. dentist workforce is projected to increase from 34.5 percent in 2020 to 49.4 percent in 2040.

According to HPI, understanding the future supply of dentists only partially contributes to the central policy question of whether the dental workforce will be able to meet population needs. The issue of provider adequacy is far more complex and further research is needed.

To read the research brief, visit ADA.org/HPI.
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