How the role of women in dentistry has come a long way

The role of women in dentistry is still evolving and times are changing. But what still needs to happen - and why is recognition important?

One of the most memorable anecdotes related to the Top 25 Women in Dentistry came just after the inaugural special feature was published.

I was traveling with one of the [DPR] sales reps to visit a potential advertiser. The marketing manager was an older gentleman who had been involved in the dental industry for many years. I was walking him through DPR’s editorial mission and, because we had the Women in Dentistry issue in hand, proceeded to explain how it fit. Products are nothing without the clinicians who use them. Innovation is most powerful when used to not only amaze but also to actually make patients’ lives better. These honorees reflect a group with increasing influence in the profession whether it is in the dental practice, classroom or boardroom.

Related reading: Dental Products Report's Top 25 Women in Dentistry for 2015

I went on and on and then paused, breathless, waiting for him to compliment our vision and tell me it was about time someone published a feature like this. Instead, he put the issue down and asked, “So when are you going to put out an issue recognizing the top men in dentistry?” I made a joke that every other issue year-round is dedicated to men. He didn’t laugh.

That was six years ago. 

It would be unfair to say things haven’t changed since then. There is fantastic, admirable work being done to train, support, mentor and recognize women across the dental industry. The number of women in dental practices continues to grow, and the number of dental manufacturers that recognize the power of the female clinician continues to increase. The people who serve the dental professional, as educators, sales reps, customer service specialists, etc., include more women today than ever. This is all in addition to the ongoing efforts of the American Association of Women in Dentistry.

Related reading: The significance of Dental Products Report's Top Women in Dentistry recognition

To admit that things are changing, however, is not the same as saying we’ve reached any sort of parity. The biggest evidence of this is the way I hear “women in dentistry” discussed as some sort of monolithic demographic. Not all women in dental practices choose it for the same reasons or share the same professional goals, attitudes or concerns. When we can discuss the many different types of women in the field the same way we discuss the variety of male practitioners, that is, to say, naturally, then we will start to see the kind of change the industry we all love still needs.

When Dental Products Report published the first Top 25 Women in Dentistry, each honoree was so wonderful, accomplished, inspirational and very surprised to hear she was being recognized. Each year since, there have been many reasons to think the feature might not return. I am so thankful, but in no way surprised, that year after year this industry has provided at least 25 reasons to do it again. Congratulations to all this year’s honorees, and here’s to another year of recognizing the incredible women in our corner of the profession wherever we may be.


Thais Carter is the former group editorial director for Advanstar Dental Media; she helped found the Top 25 Women in Dentistry in 2009. Today, she is senior manager, global PR/media relations, for KaVo Kerr Group.