Demographics and Distribution of Selected Oral Health Occupations

Data from state licensing agencies and surveys of dental workers provide the best information about the supply and demographics of Washington’s oral health workforce but take time to collect and analyze. The WOHW team has collected and analyzed Washington State licensure data from 2022 with plans to collect and analyze survey data beginning in 2023. These summaries provide historical context and a baseline for comparison with current data. 

This page will continue to be updated over time to include other oral health occupations and to incorporate information from the most current licensing data and surveys of Washington’s oral health workforce.

Dentists

*Data points reflect licensure/license data obtained and analyzed by UW CHWS team.

Number of Individuals with WA Dental Licenses, 2009-2023

Occupation  

Credential(s) 

Credential Type 

2009 

2016 

2022 

2023 

Dentist

DENT, DEFC, DERE, DEUW 

License 

5,819 

6,325 

6,886

7,015

2022 licensure data from the Washington State Department of Health includes the following dentist licenses: Dentist License (DENT), n=6,815; Dentist Faculty UW License (DEFC, for dentists who have been licensed to practice dentistry in another state or country, and who have been accepted for employment by the University of Washington, School of Dentistry), n=17; Dentist Resident Community License (DERE), n=23; and Dentist Resident Postdoctoral License (DEUW, for university postdoctoral students or residents in dental education, or postdoctoral residents in a dental residency program to provide dental care only in connection with his or her duties as a university postdoctoral dental student or resident or a postdoctoral resident in a program), n=31.
2009 and 2016 credential frequencies from the Washington State Department of Health via the reports: 
Skillman SM, Andrilla CHA, Alves-Dunkerson JA, Mouradian WE, Comenduley M, Yi J, Doescher MP. Washington State’s Oral Health Workforce. Seattle, WA: Center for Health Workforce Studies, University of Washington, Nov 2009 
Patterson DG, Andrilla CHA, Schwartz MR, Hager LJ, Skillman SM. Assessing the Impact of Washington State’s Oral Health Workforce on Patient Access to Care. Seattle, WA: Center for Health Workforce Studies, University of Washington, Nov 2017 

Statewide Supply, Age and Sex

In 2009 and 2016, the University of Washington Center for Health Workforce studies used state dental licensing records to summarize the supply, age, and sex of Washington’s dentists. Overall, the number of dentists increased in 2016 (5,326 or 74 per 100,000 population) compared with 2009 (4,637 or 69 per 100,000 population).  The average age of dentists increased slightly from 48.1 years in 2009 to 48.4 years in 2016, while the proportion that is female increased from 22.3% to 29.5%.

Supply, Average Age and Percent of Washington Dentists Who Were Female in 2009 and 2016

Supply, Age and Sex by Accountable Community of Health

Washington state dentists, with a license address in Washington, were unevenly distributed across Washington’s Accountable Communities of Health (ACH). In King County, the most populous ACH in Washington, there were 109 licensed dentists per 100,000 population.  All other ACHs had a dentist-to-100,000 population ratio less than 70.

Dentists per 100,000 Population with Washington Licenses by Accountable Communities of Health (ACH) in 2016

 

Characteristics of Dentists with Washington Licenses by Accountable Community of Health (ACH) in 2016

Notes:
1) Sources for data on this page – Washington State Department of Health, Health Professions Licensing Data System and Washington State Office of Financial Management Population Data.
2)Results were previously reported in: Patterson DG, Andrilla CHA, Schwartz MR, Hager LJ, Skillman SM. Assessing the Impact of Washington State’s Oral Health Workforce on Patient Access to Care. Seattle, WA: Center for Health Workforce Studies, University of Washington, Nov 2017.
3) This page will be updated as soon as current licensing and survey data are obtained and analyzed.

Dental Hygienists

*Data points reflect licensure/license data obtained and analyzed by UW CHWS team.

Number of Individuals with WA Dental Hygiene Licenses, 2009-2023

Occupation  

Credential(s) 

Credential Type 

2009 

2016 

2022 

2023 

Dental hygienist

DEHY, DEHI, DEHL 

License 

4,973 

5,754 

6,762  

6,821  

2022 licensure data from the Washington State Department of Health includes the following dental hygienist licenses: Dental Hygiene License (DEHY), n=6,060; Dental Hygiene Initial Limited License (DEHI), n=136; Dental Hygiene Renewable Limited License (DEHL), n=566. DEHI licenses allow hygienists to work, but do not allow any anesthesia or restorative procedures until the full license is obtained. DEHL licenses allow for anesthesia procedures, but not restorative. Restorative education is not required for maintaining the DEHL.

2009 and 2016 credential frequencies from the Washington State Department of Health via the reports: 

Skillman SM, Andrilla CHA, Alves-Dunkerson JA, Mouradian WE, Comenduley M, Yi J, Doescher MP. Washington State’s Oral Health Workforce. Seattle, WA: Center for Health Workforce Studies, University of Washington, Nov 2009 

Patterson DG, Andrilla CHA, Schwartz MR, Hager LJ, Skillman SM. Assessing the Impact of Washington State’s Oral Health Workforce on Patient Access to Care. Seattle, WA: Center for Health Workforce Studies, University of Washington, Nov 2017 

Statewide Supply, Age and Sex 

In 2009 and 2016, the University of Washington Center for Health Workforce studies used state dental hygiene licensing records to summarize the supply, age, and sex of Washington’s dental hygienists. Overall, the number of hygienists increased in 2016 (5,178 or 72 per 100,000 population) compared with 2009 (4,381 or 66 per 100,000 population).  The average age of dental hygienists increased from 44.3 years in 2009 to 45.3 years in 2016, while the proportion male increased from 3.1% to 3.3%.  

Supply, Average Age and Percent of Washington Dental Hygienists Who Were Male in 2009 and 2016 

Supply, Age and Sex by Accountable Community of Health 

As the map below shows, the ratio of dental hygienists per 100,000 population in 2016 varied from a high of 84 per 100,000 population in the Better Health Together Accountable Community of Health (ACH) to a low of 61 per 100,000 population in the Olympic ACH. The table below the map shows dental hygienist distribution, average age, and proportion female in 2016 for each ACH.  

Dental Hygienists with Washington Licenses per 100,000 Population in each Accountable Community of Health (ACH) in 2016 

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Characteristics of Dental Hygienists with Washington Licenses by Accountable Community of Health (ACH) in 2016

Notes:
1) Sources for data on this page – Washington State Department of Health, Health Professions Licensing Data System and Washington State Office of Financial Management Population Data.
2)Results were previously reported in: Patterson DG, Andrilla CHA, Schwartz MR, Hager LJ, Skillman SM. Assessing the Impact of Washington State’s Oral Health Workforce on Patient Access to Care. Seattle, WA: Center for Health Workforce Studies, University of Washington, Nov 2017.
3) This page will be updated as soon as current licensing and survey data are obtained and analyzed.

Dental Assistants

*Data points reflect licensure/license data obtained and analyzed by UW CHWS team.

Number of Individuals with WA Dental Assistant Registration, 2009-2023

Occupation  

Credential(s) 

Credential Type 

2009 

2016 

2022 

2023 

Dental assistant  

DEAS  

Registration 

9,538 

 

16,863  

17,183  

2022 licensure data from the Washington State Department of Health.

2009 credential frequencies from the Washington State Department of Health via the report: 

Skillman SM, Andrilla CHA, Alves-Dunkerson JA, Mouradian WE, Comenduley M, Yi J, Doescher MP. Washington State’s Oral Health Workforce. Seattle, WA: Center for Health Workforce Studies, University of Washington, Nov 2009 

Statewide Supply and Other Demographics

Washington first required dental assistants to be registered by the state on July 1, 2008. Unlike for dentists and dental hygienists, these records were not used in previous reporting by the University of Washington Center for Health Workforce studies to summarize the supply, age and sex of dental assistants in Washington. Therefore, we have used another data source, the American Community Survey (ACS), to describe the supply of dental assistants in 2014 and 2018.

This page will be updated as soon as current registration and survey data describing Washington’s dental assistants are obtained and analyzed.

Characteristics of Washington Dental Assistants in 2014 and 2018

Other Dental Occupations

Number of Individuals with WA Dental Credentials, 2009-2022

 Occupation  

 Credential(s) 

  Credential Type 

2009 

2016 

2022 

2023

 Dental anesthesia assistant  

 DEAA  

 Certification 

– 

 

249  

272

 Expanded function dental auxiliary

 EFDA  

 License 

– 

 

371  

420

 Denturist 

 DENR  

 License 

138 

 

151  

150

The EFDA license is a stand-alone license, although they are all REGISTERED dental assistants.  

2009 denturist credential frequencies from the Washington State Department of Health via the report: 

Skillman SM, Andrilla CHA, Alves-Dunkerson JA, Mouradian WE, Comenduley M, Yi J, Doescher MP. Washington State’s Oral Health Workforce. Seattle, WA: Center for Health Workforce Studies, University of Washington, Nov 2009 

Supply Size Comparison

Occupation Supply Size and Per 100,000 Population Comparison

How does Washington’s supply of oral health workers compare with other states and the United States as a whole? Use the interactive graph below to explore counts and estimates per 100,000 population for dental assistants, dental hygienists and dentists based on data from the American Community Survey (ACS) .

While California seems to have a higher number of dental workers than other states, the estimated number of dental workers per 100,000 population in each state and in the United States as a whole show that, in 2018, Washington had a higher relative number of dental assistants, dental hygienists and dentists compared with the national average. The comparison with a selection of other states varies by state. These estimates will be updated when 2022 data are made available.

Practice Authorization Comparison

State Variation in Practice Authorization for Dental Hygienists and Dental Therapists

The Oral Health Workforce Research Center (OHWRC) , based at the University at Albany, State University of New York, has done extensive work describing the oral health workforce nationally and regionally. Use the links below to see infographics prepared the OHWRC to summarize practice authorization by state for dental hygienists and dental therapists.

Variation in Dental Hygiene Scope of Practice by State

Authorization Status of Dental Therapists By State

Application of Silver Diamine Fluoride (SDF) by Dental Hygienists