Bulletin of Dental Education

Dental School Enrollment on the Rise for Hispanic/Latino Applicants

 Permanent link   All Posts

Among U.S. and Canadian dental schools, historically underrepresented student numbers are on the rise, particularly for Hispanic/Latino students. According to ADEA’s latest historical trend data for applicants, enrollees and graduates, over the last decade dental school applications from students of Hispanic/Latino descent increased 32.7%, from 838 applications in 2007 to 1,112 applications for the 2017 entering class. The percentage of Hispanic/Latino student enrollment increased as well, rising 87.7% over the same 10-year period from 308 enrolled Hispanic/Latino students in 2007 to 578 in 2017.1 As a result, 52.0% of Hispanic/Latino applicants in the fall 2017 entering class enrolled in dental school. Comparatively, 42.7% of African American, 47.6% of American Indian/Alaska Native, 55.6% of Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, 50.9% of Asian and 55.3% of Caucasian applicants enrolled in dental school during the fall 2017 term. According to 2016 data provided by the American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute, graduation numbers of Hispanic/Latino students are also on the rise, with 414 Hispanic/Latino students graduating from dental school.2 The 414 total is a 55.1% increase from a decade ago, when only 267 Hispanic/Latino students graduated from dental school. While trends are on the rise for the applications, enrollment and graduation of Hispanic/Latino students in dental school, there is also an upward trajectory for Hispanic/Latino students entering allied dental programs.

According to the American Dental Association Surveys of Allied Dental Education, 2,242 Hispanic/Latino students enrolled in dental hygiene programs across the United States during the 2016-17 academic year; an increase of 101.9% from a decade ago, where 1,110 Hispanic/Latino students enrolled in dental hygiene programs during the 2006-07 academic year.3 During the same 10-year period, Hispanic/Latino student enrollment also increased in U.S. dental assisting programs by 34.2%, rising from 824 enrolled students to 1,106.4 Despite the progress that Hispanic/Latino students are having in dental education, and consequently in the profession of dentistry, many individuals caution that these increases in dental education are not keeping pace with the U.S. Hispanic population parity.

The Oral Health Workforce Research Center writes in its August 2017 publication, The Evolving Pipeline of Hispanic Dentists in the United States: Practice and Policy Implications, that “the Hispanic/Latino (H/L) dentist workforce…is disproportionately small compared with the rapidly growing and historically underserved H/L population. Enrollment of H/L students in U.S. dental schools increased from 5.4% in 2000 to [9.4% in 2017] but remains far below 17.1%, the proportion of the U.S. population that is H/L. This suggests that the gap in parity will continue to grow.”5 The Hispanic Dental Association’s 2013 white paper, Disturbing Shortage of Hispanic Dentists to Serve Rising Hispanic Population, notes that disparities between Hispanic and non-Hispanic populations exist because “many [historically underrepresented] groups are not only uneducated regarding oral health care but are underrepresented in the dental professions.”6 

“Improving the racial and ethnic diversity of the nation’s dentists is critical in efforts to reduce disparities in access to care and health outcomes and to better address the oral health needs of an increasingly diverse US population” (OHWRC, 2017). As Hispanic/Latino student enrollment and graduation rates increase, the U.S. moves closer toward strengthening attitudes and understandings of oral health care among underserved Hispanic/Latino population and reducing disparities among underserved communities. 

ADEA will continue to monitor the applicant, enrollment and graduation trends of historically underrepresented students, and encourage dental school applications from diverse student populations. In fact, on Aug. 15, ADEA hosted a first-ever meeting promoting the Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP) and the Dental School Diversity Pipeline that invited representatives of the Hispanic Dental Association (HDA), National Dental Association (NDA), and the Society of American Indian Dentists (SAID) to engage with ADEA constituent groups who focus on diversity and inclusion to discuss how the associations can jointly and through individual efforts grow the pipeline of students who apply to health professions schools, dental school in particular. SHPEP is a longstanding pipeline program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The dentistry pathway was added to the program in 2006. To date, 589 SHPEP alumni have graduated from U.S. dental schools.

Published on September 12, 2018 


1 American Dental Education Association. U.S. Dental School Applicants and Enrollees, 2017 Entering Class. At: adea.org/data/students. Accessed: Aug. 21, 2018.

2 American Dental Association, Health Policy Institute, Surveys of Dental Education. Minority Graduates of U.S. Dental Schools. At: adea.org/data/students/. Accessed: Aug. 21, 2018

3American Dental Association, Survey Center, Surveys of Allied Dental Education. Applications and Acceptances—Dental Hygiene Programs, 2002-03 to 2016-17. At: adea.org/data/students. Accessed: Aug. 21, 2018

4American Dental Association, Survey Center, Surveys of Allied Dental Education. Applications and Acceptances—Dental Assisting Programs, 2002-03 to 2016-17. At: adea.org/data/students. Accessed: Aug. 21, 2018

5Raja Z, Wides C, Kottek A, Gates P, Mertz E. The Evolving Pipeline of Hispanic Dentists in the United States: Practice and Policy Implications. Rensselaer, NY: Oral Health Workforce Research Center, Center for Health Workforce Studies, School of Public Health, SUNY Albany; August 2017.

6Hispanic Dental Association. White paper: Disturbing Shortage of Hispanic Dentists to Serve Rising Hispanic Population. 2013. At: http://hdassoc.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/HDA-White-Paper-FINAL.pdf. Accessed: Aug. 21, 2018. 

Duggan ad 2013