The effects of gender disparities on dental hygiene education and practice in Europe

Int J Dent Hyg. 2003 Nov;1(4):195-212. doi: 10.1034/j.1601-5037.2003.00047.x.


In Europe, over 96.5% of dental hygienists are women. The objective of this report was to examine the impact of gender role stereotyping on the image of the dental hygiene profession and on disparities in educational attainment and work regulations within Europe. Data pertaining to regulated or non-regulated dental hygiene practice in 22 European countries were analysed according to possible gender impact on access to education and on the structure of the delivery of care. It was examined whether there is a correlation between national differences found in the dental hygiene profession and gender related disparities found in other work-related areas. Results show that the gender bias in the dental hygiene profession has an effect on equal access to education, and on equal occupational opportunities for dental hygienists within the European Union (EU) and beyond. In northern Europe, higher educational attainment in the field of dental hygiene, more extensive professional responsibilities and greater opportunities for self-employment in autonomous practice tend to correlate with greater equality in the work force. In eastern Europe, lower educational and professional opportunities in dental hygiene correlate with greater gender disparities found in other work-related areas. In some western European countries, the profession has not been implemented because of the political impact of organised dentistry, which expects financial loss from autonomous dental hygiene practice. In order to fulfil mandates of the EU, initiatives must be taken to remove the gender bias in the delivery of preventive care and to promote equal access to educational attainment and to professional development in the whole of Europe for those who choose to do so.

MeSH terms

  • Career Mobility
  • Civil Rights
  • Delivery of Health Care / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Dental Assistants
  • Dental Hygienists / education*
  • Dental Hygienists / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Dental Prophylaxis
  • Dentists
  • Dentists, Women
  • Educational Status
  • Employment / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Europe
  • European Union
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Legislation, Dental
  • Male
  • Prejudice
  • Professional Autonomy
  • Professional Practice* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Stereotyping*
  • Women's Rights / legislation & jurisprudence