Number of pediatric dentists projected to grow by 60%

By Theresa Pablos, associate editor

July 16, 2019 — The number of U.S. pediatric dentists is expected to grow by more than 60% through 2030, according to new research commissioned by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). Without major policy shifts, this drastic increase in supply could overtake demand for services.

The dental industry is in a time of transition — more dentists are postponing retirement and an increasing number of students are enrolled in dental school. A study published in the July issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association explored how these trends may affect pediatric dentistry (July 2019, Vol. 150:7, pp. 609-617).

“The study results suggest that the supply of pediatric dentists is growing more rapidly than is the demand,” wrote the authors, led by Simona Surdu, MD, PhD, from the University at Albany School of Public Health in Albany, NY. “Growth in demand could increase if pediatric dentists captured a larger share of pediatric dental services or if children who are underserved had oral healthcare use patterns similar to those of the population with fewer access barriers.”

In 2016, there were approximately 6,530 active pediatric dentists in the U.S., according to the authors. If current supply trends hold steady, there will be 10,560 pediatric dentists by 2030, an increase of 62%.

In contrast, demand for pediatric dentists is only expected to grow by 2% under the status quo scenario. This translates to a need of only 140 more pediatric dentists — thousands fewer than the projected supply.

Kevin Donly, DDS

Kevin Donly, DDS, president of the AAPD.

“Pediatric dentists provide crucial oral health services to our nation’s most vulnerable populations — the very young, children from low-income families, and those with special healthcare needs,” stated Kevin Donly, DDS, president of the AAPD, in a press release on the findings. “More pediatric dentists mean more access to high-quality oral healthcare for children and more opportunities to prevent dental disease.”

While the supply of pediatric dentists dwarfs demand in the status quo scenario, that could change with sweeping policy reforms. For instance, if children who are currently underserved increase their rate of oral healthcare to that of their peers, demand would increase to 8,630 pediatric dentists by 2030, the researchers found.

“Underserved children struggle with higher rates of dental disease,” Dr. Donly stated. “They are more likely to suffer from dental pain and require restorative treatment. That’s why we continually advocate for changes in health policy to reduce barriers to oral healthcare.”

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Last Updated hh 7/19/2019 1:27:46 PM

Forum Comments

4 comments so far …

Having more pediatric dentists is great however, there could be too many at that point as crazy as that may sound.
With less younger people getting married and having children, their pediatric patient pool is diminished.  
There was a report in January 2019 showing that the US fertility rate is at 1.765 or 16% below 2.100.  It is part of a 10 year downward trend and the lowest since 1978.
This is also one reason why Toy R Us went out of business- less customers, among the other reasons.

Here’s a link to the entire press release:  
This seems more like a marketing ad for the dental education-industrial complex, than actual problem solving for access to care. “”Now that we have more pediatric dentists, we can devote our efforts to encouraging them to practice in locations previously out of reach of specialist services,” stated Donly. “The expansion of loan repayment assistance programs has helped place more dentists in designated Health Professional Shortage Areas. Children deserve access to the same high-quality oral health services no matter where they live.””
Here’s reality- The government fixes prices for Medicaid dental services, often below the overhead costs to provide those services ethically. Pediatric dentists will locate to demographics where they can earn a living & pay down outrageous loads of student loan debt. 
The dental education-industrial complex can keep pumping ever more grads, w/ ever increasing debt loads, & w/ government price-fixing, access to care won’t be resolved. Dental needs DON’T automatically equate to a demand for those services. That’s a basic economic principle which too many policymakers apparently can’t understand. 
Michael W Davis, DDS
Santa Fe, NM

@MWDavisDDS Exactly. Besides that, I find it incredibly hard to believe there are that many students clamoring to be pediatric dentists.

And you definitely won’t find them in unprofitable areas. They will be in high-dollar areas (either with private or state funds) and they won’t be doing anything without full sedation. I know pediatric guys that do virtually nothing on their patients without sedation, except maybe prophies and sealants (and maybe even with sealants!). The state they practice in has high reimbursement for hospital-based sedation.

I am hoping the increased number of pediatric dentists will expand their view to look for other ways to improve the health of the population besides caries control. Nutrition counseling and airway development are important services that pediatric dentists can provide.  

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