Dentist Workforce Trends in a Primarily Rural State: Iowa: 1997-2007
BACKGROUND: State dental boards maintain minimal demographic and practice characteristics about licensed dentists. The authors describe the creation and monitoring of an enhanced surveillance system concerning Iowa's dentists.
METHODS: The Iowa Dentist Tracking System (IDTS) was used to collect demographic, educational, practice arrangement, office location and work hour data for all active Iowa dentists beginning in 1997. IDTS staff members add newly licensed dentists to the system as practice locations become available. They also contact each dental office semiannually by telephone to update this information. The IDTS Advisory Committee meets annually to review these data and monitor trends.
RESULTS: The Iowa dentist workforce was relatively stable from 1997 through 2007; however, a large number of dentists are expected to retire during the next decade, which could create a shortage of providers, especially in rural areas. Although the percentage of male and female dentists who practice part time (< 32 hours per week) decreased between 1997 and 2007, young female dentists are more likely than young male dentists to practice part time.
CONCLUSIONS: IDTS is a workforce tracking model that can be used to understand trends at the community, regional and state levels. An aging dentist workforce in Iowa could put a strain on the public's ability to access dental care, especially in rural counties.
PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: In the development of workforce policy, workforce tracking systems such as IDTS provide additional information in considering the number of dentists, location, accessibility and potential productivity of a workforce.