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Feature: Future of Dentistry Part 1: Nine Potential New Dental Schools In The United States

Nine New Dental Schools? - Reaction To The Economics of Dental Education Into The Future

In response to a dental-related death in 2007, the U.S. Government Accountability Office recently issued a scathing report about the state of the nation's dental education system. The report came about after Deamonte Driver, a boy aged 12 died last year in Washington when a tooth infection left unchecked spread to his brain. The fallout has revealed a whole new set of changes expected in the dental education system.

Among the changes suggested, the most noteworthy for Top Ten Nation readers is that the ADA (American Dental Association) and ADEA (American Dental Education Association) intend on opening up eight new dental schools in the near future (the ninth school we'll touch upon later). The information comes from the testimony of Dr. Jane S. Grover, first vice president of the ADA to the Committee on House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Domestic Policy.

In the testimony, Dr. Grover explains that the ADEA believes that there are not enough dentists graduating to meet the needs of the U.S. population. To address the issue, the report suggests the use of auxiliary dental personnel (Community Dental Health Coordinators or CDHC's) who would perform preventative procedures including temporization of caries. Additionally, the plan, cited from the testimony, involves (in addition to the 57 current dental schools in the U.S.), opening up eight new dental schools in the following states:

  • Arizona
  • North Carolina (Rurally focused - in the Eastern area)
  • Utah
  • Nevada
  • Texas
  • Wisconsin
  • Virginia
  • New England
We already know about a few of these schools and where they will open:
  • Arizona in the list refers to Midwestern University's College of Dental Medicine. This dental school matriculated the first graduating class of 2012 in 2008.
  • North Carolina refers to East Carolina University's School of Dentistry. ECU plans to matriculate it's first class of about 50 students in 2011.
  • New England refers to the University of New England in Maine. UNE is in the exploratory stage of opening a new dental school. The Dean of College of Health Professions has mentioned that the Board of Trustees has approved the planning for a school and that fund-raising has now begun.
  • Information from one of our blog readers, Dennis (1st comment under this post), tells us that Utah's potential new dental school will be located at University of Utah in Salt Lake City. It is alleged that medical students are currently taking their biomedical sciences with dental students from Creighton as a possible stepping stone to a full blown dental program.
In addition to all of the new schools listed in the testimony to the Domestic Policy Subcommittee, there is now Western University in California which is in the midst of opening up a new College of Dental Medicine. That brings the number of total potential new dental schools to nine.

What will this mean to the future of the dental profession? It appears that for now, most dentists agree that the new dental schools will start to fill the supply side shortages in the dental industry, and will hopefully not over-saturate the numbers of dentists practicing. Dentists, legislators, and those leaders with decision making powers need to understand that opening new dental schools simply creates new dentists, but does not address the distribution issues. Rural areas are suffering not because of a relative shortage of dentists nationally but because of dentists being concentrated in cities. Is opening up new dental schools the way to proceed? It is clear that new dental schools are required to meet the demands for the future, but for now, the slow process of opening new dental schools can potentially allow the ADEA and other oversight committees to "titrate" graduating dentists to an equilibrium that allows dentists and the dental patient population to be satisfied with the provision of dental care.

Economically, the opening of these dental schools should not significantly reduce the competitiveness of the dental profession as a top 5 income earner in the United States. The fact of the matter remains that the numbers of dentists in total is dwindling with retirees outnumbering graduates. If new dentists don't graduate, other allied providers such as CDHC's will continue to jump in to fill the demand. The only concern on our mind is that we hope that the 'new dental school opening' trend doesn't continue in disregard to debt loads associated with dental education and opening a small business. There is a potential that the income of the profession can decrease, leaving new graduates in unpayable debts with dreams of their own practices. Lets hope that the ADEA remains cognizant of that. See Part 2 of the Future of Dentistry series.


  1. My brother just started medical school this fall at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. He was surprised to learn that first-year dental students (accepted to Creighton) would also be studying alongside him for the first two years. Apparently, the school is very open about the fact that they will be opening a full-blown dental school in the near future. The student-exchange program they have going with Creighton seems to be the first step.

  2. Thank you for the information Dennis! I'll add this to the article!

  3. Hi, I love your website, it's wonderful! You definitely don't post enough, which just means I wait for every new post. Wish me luck, I hope to be in dental school this time next year <3

  4. I live in utah now and i am doing my undergrad work at southern utah university. I would love to see a dental school open at Utah University. I love reading these posts, I will hopefully be applying to schools in the next two years. What are the chances of a school opening in Utah? thanks again.

  5. Annie and Austin,
    We can't claim to know any more information than is provided by Dr. Grover's testimony to the Committee on House Oversight and Government Reform. We do know that rumors of a dental school opening at University of Utah have been floating around since 2005. The process of opening a dental school takes years regardless, and as such, preliminary funding and organization would be required before anyone would make a definitive statement. Take care =)

  6. Dennis is obviously getting some secondhand info, which isn't entirely correct. First year dental students from Creighton only do one year at the University of Utah, and then go and do the final three at Creighton. The program is known as RDEP. I did my undergrad at the University of Utah, and i did not apply to the RDEP program mainly because I wanted to go somewhere new, that wasn't in Nebraska.

    Finally, I read through the ADA Testimony, and I think they make a few assumptions that aren't correct. I remember hearing a ton of info about a possible UofU dental school a couple of years ago, but as far as I know, the proposal died in the state legislature.

    What the ADA Testimony says is that a new school is planned for Utah, but they don't say where the funding is going to come from. Do you think the ADA is going to pay the state of Utah to build a dental school? I don't think that's going to happen in the foreseeable future. The state legislature isn't really keen on giving away the cash needed to build a dental school here, and I think that alone is going to keep us from not having one. They just forked over a ton of money to add a new wing on to the University of Utah hospital. I'm here to tell you that there is no chance that we are going to get a dental school.

  7. Hi, I'm interested in knowing your expert opinion on attending dental schools which have just been newly accredited. ECU looks interesting because I live in North Carolina. What are the benefits of becoming part of the school's inaugural class? I assume that there are many drawbacks such as lack of alumni base and reviews, but facilities and classroom tools will also be new. I'd like to hear what you think, and if it is worth braving the waters to become that 1st class. Thanks!

  8. These top 10 lists always fascinate me. I have a DDS from Texas A&M University Health Science Center Baylor College of Denistry. Every year each school ups their requirements for graduation. I believe it is an attempt to get on these lists. When you look at the requirements they are all very similar really. It is funny because I attended a little known school (lots of students so it is not small) The University of North Texas. It isn't ranked for anything but music; however, with the pre-professional advisory committee, the rate of students with high DAT and MCAT scores is very high. I think any school that prepares you for the next level is worthy of a "top 10"! I can honestly say after hiring several associates for several of my offices; many of which have just graduated, there are no schools that prepare you for seeing 24 patients your first day on the job. So I say good luck kiddos, no matter where or how prestigious your school is, you are in for a rude awakening.

  9. A suggestion, use Foreign Trained Dentist for the Shortage Areas.

    For us (FTD) it can be an opportunity, even if I can only work in the rural area, even if I am obligated to work for years (5 can be good), after all the price is to work in USA.

    Here in Chile we have something similar to this. It is called DGZ (Dentistas Generales de Zona), the Department of Health of my country contracts Dentists with a salary a bit higher that the average, but they can only work in rural areas. After 5 years, the receive as a price a postgrade in any University that you want.

    In another words, you get a job, your University is paid by the Government, but the only restriction is to work (and to do not quit) in rural areas.


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