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Women in dentistry

The number of women working in NHS dentistry is steadily rising. This changing demographic of the dental workforce is raising issues around working patterns, practice models, professional incomes, specialty training and practice, and representation in leadership roles.

What's the picture of dentistry today?

The number of women working in NHS dentistry is steadily rising - in England, females now make up nearly half of the NHS dentist workforce:




Source: NHS Digital - NHS Dental Statistics for England 2017-18 (Figure 8c)




Key issues facing women in dentistry today

Some of the key areas emerging from our FB Live discussion:


  • Female role models in the profession encourage greater participation for women developing their career
  • Dentistry is a fantastic career for women and can offer flexible working, to allow for a good work-life balance
  • Barriers still exist, especially in terms of women progressing into more senior roles

The discussion also revealed there is some confusion about women who are working in dentisty's maternity rights - this is a complex area, but BDA members can access our advice on employees' maternity and parental rights.


Does dentistry have gender parity?

NHS Digital's report on NHS Earnings and Expenses Estimates 2015/16 shows the mean average taxable income for all self-employed primary care dentists (from NHS and private dentistry) by gender (England & Wales, 2015/16). 

Mean average taxable income
The report shows that female dentists are earning less, and are also less likely to be provider-performers. Women are disproportionately more likely to be performer-only dentists than their male counterparts, with over 90% working as performer- only, compared with 72% for men.
We note that there are gender differences among dentists in terms of both pay and the propensity to be practice owners.
It is likely that the former is influenced by the latter. Our research on the career intentions of associates indicates that the gender disparity among practice owners is set to persist and we plan to undertake further investigation into this area.
With regards to pay, we believe that an analysis of hourly pay, rather than taxable income, by gender would better allow for a distinction to be made between inequalities resulting from structural workforce factors and those caused by unequal pay for unequal work.
A greater percentage of the current community dental services workforce is female: in 2017, 79.1% of the CDS workforce was female.

International Women's Day

The BDA celebrates International Women's Day, highlighting the issues facing women working into dentistry today and faciliating a discussion.

In 2018, we hosted a FB Live event, with a panel of female dentists at different stages of their careers, discussing careers, getting the best out of your contract, and how to develop confidence in stepping up for leadership roles in the profession.

Watch again

Want to find out more?


BDA advice and support

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We campaign on a range of issues affecting dentists and dentistry today. We make sure that dentists' views are represented when it comes to health policy being developed by government and other key organisations: join us.