Health Professions


Dr. Lucy Beeman Hobbs Taylor was the first woman to receive a dental degree in the United States, graduating in 1866 from the Ohio Dental College. When Lucy Hobbs was seeking to first enter dental school in the early 1860s, there were only three dental schools in the entire U.S.: the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery (opened in 1840), the Ohio Dental College (opened in 1845), and the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery (opened in 1856).

Dental schools in the United States were somewhat more accepting of women than their medical school counterparts. The New York College of Dental Surgery graduated its first woman in 1872 and the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery graduated its first woman two years later. However, women entered dentistry in smaller numbers than those entering medicine. Through the 1970s, the percentage of women dentists stayed relatively constant at about 1 to 2%. In comparison, the percentage of women doctors increased to about 7%.

It is also interesting to note that before 1960 the United States had the smallest percentage of woman dentists in the Western Hemisphere. About half the dentists in Greece were women, almost a third in Norway, Sweden, France and Denmark, and almost 80 percent in Finland, Russia, Latvia and Lithuania.

The 1970s saw a significant increase in the numbers of women entering many fields previously dominated by men. Yet dentistry has not drawn as many women as has medicine. Whereas women now comprise about 45% of medical school students, only 35-40% of dental students are women. According to American Dental Association statistics, women currently comprise about 14% of professionally active dentists in the U.S. About 20 percent of dentists under the age of 40 are women, though, due to the increase of woman dental students since the 1970s. As women continue to make up an increasing percentage of dental school students, the overall percentage of woman dentists will rise.

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