The Mom Group: The Future of Women in Dentistry

According to Sheryl Sandberg, in her book Lean In: “43% of highly qualified women with children are leaving careers or off-ramping for a period of time.”[1]

With 44% of spots at dental schools around the country being taken by women, if we assume the 43% ‘off-ramping’ figure to be accurate, that would mean that almost half of the country’s trained dentists will leave at some point – either for a time, or permanently. Of course, Ms. Sandberg was not speaking specifically of dentistry, but if we extrapolate that data against this information, we can see that there is a pattern of women dentists in particular  ‘off-ramping’ at some point in their career:

“Slightly more than half of all female and male dentists work full-time (between 32 and 42 hours per week). Women are somewhat more likely than men to work part-time: 28 percent vs. 15 percent, and are less likely to work overtime: 16 percent vs. 30 percent. A recent study indicated that marital status does not appear to have an impact on work hours among female dentists. However, having children reduces women’s work hours by nearly one workday per week, on average.” (Source)

Given the effort it takes to become a dentist, to say nothing of the cost, would more women dentists stay in the profession if flexibility was part of the package?

“Compared to their male colleagues, women are less likely to be in solo practices and more likely to be employees or independent contractors. Fifty-three percent of female dentists are solo practitioners compared to 75 percent of male dentists, and 29 percent of women are employees or independent contractors compared to 8 percent of men.” (Source)

Why is this? Ultimately, it’s likely because a solo practice, while allowing a measure of control, does not allow for actual flexibility. The day to day management of the practice is still the responsibility of the owner / dentist. The happiness of the patients and ultimately, their willingness to stay with the office comes down to that solo practitioner.

Dentists who become parents – men AND women – could benefit from the more flexible arrangements that would be made possible by a group dental practice. By sharing the skills and responsibilities across several professionals, they would each be able to get more of the balance they are seeking while still maintaining an efficient and busy dental practice.

“With respect to balancing the demands of dentistry and home life, women bear the brunt of the burden. According to the 1995 ADA survey, women dentists spent an average of 15 hours a week in “leisure with children,” 11 hours a week in childcare, and nine hours a week in housework. Combined, female dentists spent about double the amount of time in these activities than their male colleagues, adding what amounts to a substantial “second shift” of work to their lives.Women were also more likely than men to take a leave of absence from work for childrearing and more likely to take longer leaves of absence for that purpose.” (Source)

A high producing dental office isn’t particularly efficient as a solo practice, particularly for professionals who might wish to take some time off for important family considerations. Let’s remember that this doesn’t relate only to women and children but also fathers with children, caregiving for elderly parents and other life events.

A managed group practice unifies qualified professionals with the team and systems to create maximum benefit with a minimum of extra overhead, providing the all-in-one service structure that patients have come to look for.

[1] “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, Page 98, as quoted in The Atlantic April 19, 2013


You need to do the work that you enjoy and that capitalizes on your skills and education. In other words, do what you do best. You don’t need to be bogged down in marketing plans and management conundrums. Let others do that.

Contact the experts at Dental Management Advisors and we’ll help you get back to doing more of what you love.



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