The Hispanic and Latino dentist workforce in the United States

J Public Health Dent. 2017 Mar;77(2):163-173. doi: 10.1111/jphd.12194. Epub 2016 Dec 26.


Objectives: The purpose of this paper is to describe the Hispanic/Latino (H/L) dentist workforce, their general practice patterns, and their contributions to oral health care for H/L and underserved patients.

Methods: A national sample survey of underrepresented minority dentists was conducted in 2012 and received a 35.4 percent response rate for self-reported H/L dentists. Data were weighted for selection and response bias to be nationally representative. A workforce profile of H/L dentists was created using descriptive and multivariable statistics and published data.

Results: Among all H/L dentists (weighted n = 5,748), 31.9 percent self-identify their origin as Mexican, 13.4 percent as Puerto Rican, 13.0 percent as Cuban, and 41.7 percent as another H/L group. The largest share of H/L dentists are male, married, and have children under age 18. Fifty percent of H/L dentists are foreign-born and 25 percent are foreign-trained. H/L dentists report higher than average educational debt, with those completing International Dentist Programs reporting the highest debt load. Sixty-nine percent of clinically active H/L dentists own their own practices, and 85 percent speak Spanish in their practice. Among clinical H/L dentists, 7 percent work in safety-net settings, 40 percent primarily treat underserved populations, and, on average, 42 percent of their patient population is H/L.

Conclusions: H/L dental providers are underrepresented in the dentist population, and those that are in practice shoulder a disproportionate share of dental care for minority and underserved communities. Improving the workforce diversity of dental providers is a critical part of strategy to address the high burden of dental disease in the H/L population.

Keywords: Hispanic/Latino; dentists' practice patterns; health workforce; survey research.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Dentists / supply & distribution*
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medically Underserved Area
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Patterns, Dentists' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States