Women in Dentistry: 5 Success Stories to Inspire You

Female dentist putting on latex gloves and smiling at a patient in a dental chair

While the number of women in dentistry is on the rise, females are still significantly underrepresented in the dental profession. According to the American Dental Association, as of 2020, only 34.5% of the 201,117 practicing dentists in the United States were female.

While there is certainly room for improvement when it comes to the statistics, there is no shortage of inspiring success stories of female dentists – from both the past and present.


Inspiring Women in Dentistry
Female dentist showing patient where to sign paperwork.

The success stories of female dentists range as far back as the 1800s. Here is an overview of a few influential females who helped to change the field.
 

1. Emeline Roberts Jones

Emeline Roberts Jones was born in the 19th century when women did not traditionally pursue careers – let alone dentistry careers. Jones married a dentist at age 18 and became inspired to pursue her passion for dentistry. However, there were few dental colleges in the nation at the time. As a woman, Jones was unable to gain admission.

Jones learned informally with the help of her husband, who eventually recognized her skill and allowed her to practice with him. After her husband died in 1864, Jones brought her dental practice to New England, settling in New Haven, Connecticut.

She continued to practice until retiring in 1915. Throughout her career, she received numerous honors. She was named an honorary member of the National Dental Association in 1914 and remains recognized as a pioneer for women in dentistry today.
 

2. Lucy Hobbs Taylor

Lucy Hobbs Taylor is another compelling example of a pioneering woman in dentistry. Born in 1833, Hobbs was – like Emeline Roberts Jones – a woman ahead of her time. She was determined to become a professional dentist but was denied admission to various dental colleges when she applied.

She ended up learning via an apprenticeship under the tutelage of Dr. Samuel Wardle and opening her own practice in 1861. She subsequently served as a delegate to the 1865 American Dental Association Convention and became a member of the Iowa State Dental Society.

She was then allowed to enroll at Ohio College of Dentistry, where she became the first woman globally to earn a doctorate in dentistry. Taylor continued to practice, first in Chicago and later in Kansas. Her name is still memorialized through the Lucy Hobbs Taylor Award, which the American Association of Women Dentists bestows.

3. Gayle Glenn, DDS, MSD, PA

Gayle Glenn was the 2020 recipient of the Lucy Hobbs Taylor Award. Dr. Glenn holds a dental degree from the University of Texas Dental School at San Antonio and a Master of Science and Certificate in Orthodontics from Baylor College. She was only the fourth woman to graduate from the program.
Dr. Glenn was recognized with the Lucy Hobbs Taylor Award, largely thanks to her work promoting minority and female dentist professionals. She is herself a woman of “firsts,” serving as the first woman president of the AAO, the American Association of Orthodontists.


In addition to actively practicing as a dentist, she previously taught at the Department of Orthodontics at Texas A&M University College of Dentistry, carrying forward her commitment to furthering a more inclusive future in dentistry. She was also recognized for her teaching with the H. Eldon Attaway Award, which is reserved for outstanding part-time faculty at Texas A&M University.
 

4. Dr. Mary Elizabeth Aichelmann-Reidy, DDS

Dr. Mary Elizabeth Aichelmann-Reidy is another former Lucy Hobbs Taylor award winner. She runs a dental clinic at the University of Maryland, where she focuses on mentoring female dental students. She is further a role model for inclusive dental care, helping to coordinate dental care for uninsured women in Prince George’s County and Baltimore, Maryland.

Dr. Aichelmann-Reidy serves as the Division Chief of Periodontics at the University of Maryland’s School of Dentistry. She has been recognized for her teaching with the American Academy of Periodontology Educator Award. She holds a dental degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and is a National Dental Honor Society Member.
 

5. Dr. Twana Duncan, DDS

Dr. Twana Duncan has been a significant proponent for more affordable, accessible dental care. Until 2019, she was the only practicing dental professional in Pushmataha County, Oklahoma, where she provided dedicated care to one of the state’s most impoverished areas. She has estimated that some 68% of her patients live below the poverty level.

Dr. Duncan has been pushing for more accessible community-based dental care for over 25 years. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Southeastern Oklahoma State University and a Master of Science from the University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry. She also served in the United States Navy as a junior dental officer.



Inspiring Women in Dentistry
Female dentist wearing a mask and examining a pediatric female patient.

The five women named above are just a small sampling of some of the females, past and present, who have helped pave the path for women in dentistry. This list is by no means exhaustive. For good measure, here are a few “honorable mentions” that are worth a note:

  • Dr. Mary Martin raises awareness about issues impacting women in dentistry, such as the fact that dental publication ads tend to target men and dental equipment is generally made for male bodies.
  • Dr. Antonina Capurro is the State Dental Health Officer of Nevada. She gathers data about the burden of oral disease, works to amend Medicaid for oral healthcare benefits, and writes policies designed to improve access to quality care.
  • Dr. Kadambari Rawal is a Clinical Assistant Professor of General Dentistry at Boston University, where she researches the standardization of dental health care at long-term care facilities.
As you can see, from teaching to research and advocacy, women are actively making a difference in many areas of the dental profession.
 

Help Further Your Career with Dentist’s Advantage

Dentist’s Advantage supports inclusivity at all levels of dental practice. We provide professional liability insurance to diverse dental professionals, including students, recent graduates, dental practice owners, and more.
Learn more about how our coverage options may be able to help you.
Get a quote.