More than 35,000 dentists were licensed to practice in California in 2012, a number higher than in any other state and representing about 15.6 percent of the total number of dentists nationwide. Despite these numbers, concerns over a sufficient supply of dentists in the state have not diminished. These concerns are due in part to the uneven distribution of dentists in areas with the highest level of need, as well as to demographic and practice characteristics that may limit availability of the dental workforce.
This policy brief provides an overview of changes in selected demographic and practice characteristics of California dentists from 2008 to 2012, as well as in the distribution of dentists in California regions. The findings indicate an outward migration of dentists from California, a slowly aging workforce, and low dentist-to-population ratios in some regions of California. These findings highlight the need for the continuation and fine-tuning of policies aimed at both attracting young dentists to areas with low supply and retaining existing dentists in the state.