The field of dental medicine has never been a better place for sharp, entrepreneurial women to get ahead. Dentistry was recently voted the number one profession in the United States by U.S. News and World Report, ranked on unemployment, salary and work-life balance, and women are leading the way more than ever before.

“The culture has changed immensely,” says Joyce Bassett, DDS, a practicing dentist and business owner and a leader in the field. “In my class [in the 80’s], there were 18 women and 210 men … now it’s 50 percent women or more.”

Another ceiling to break

Although dentistry is a great place for women to build successful careers, there’s still a lot of untapped potential for female leadership in the field.

“There’s another level of continuing education,” says Bassett, who was the first female dentist president of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentists. “You don’t know everything you need to know after you get out of dental school.”

The number of female teachers and leaders in organized dentistry was almost non-existent, therefore, female dentists interested in further growth lacked role models for next steps. 

“I see so many women not reach their potential because they give up,” says Bassett. “They don’t have anyone to look up to. One of the ceilings that wasn’t broken for women was teaching at continuing education meetings, working in scientific research and presence in leadership positions.”

Connecting women with role models

Mentorship will be key in unlocking the potential of the best minds in the industry.

Named for the first woman in dentistry, the Lucy Hobbs Project is an initiative by Benco Dental that seeks to unite women in dentistry so they can not just have excellent careers, but become the next leaders, teachers and ground-breaking researchers.

"Although dentistry is a great place for women to build successful careers, there’s still a lot of untapped potential for female leadership in the field."

In support of this vision, the project organizes networking events and an annual celebration that includes the Lucy Hobbs Projects Awards — honoring women in dentistry — and provides charitable funding that supports women to not just succeed but drive change in their field.

“We want women to be inspired and ignited as they move up in the world,” says Bassett, who won the project’s top clinical educator award in 2016. “We want them to know that they can do anything. Now when I meet women in the field they get my email, they get my cell number … we’re mentoring as many women as we can so they can get into the leadership and go to the next level. We want women to see other women who have built a successful business, have published and can lecture and teach.”

The power of tenacity

For women thinking of the dental profession, it’s important to know that the field is more flexible than ever, with corporate dental offices allowing easier entry to the field without the overhead of starting your own business. New graduates can pay off their debt as they get ready to become leaders.

No matter what your goals may be, Bassett advises professional women to prepare to be tough. “It’s not going to be easy. Never give up. Every day something is going to happen that’s not normal. Stay positive in whatever the situation is. If you like to problem solve and you like challenges, you can do this.”