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Issues & People Professional Issues View From The Chairside

Women in Dentistry with Dr. Cindy Lyon: How I Became a Dentist

Over the last 40 years, the proportion of women in dentistry has been rising steadily, easing women’s access into a field that has historically been male dominated. Today, we usher a new era where data shows a clear trend shift, where women dentists in graduating classes have comfortably surpassed the 50% threshold, to the point when we have started talking about the feminization of dentistry.

It wouldn’t have been possible without the women who made it this way, who found a passion in dentistry and a reward in practicing it.

It is only fitting that we, at CDA Oasis, would like to start the conversation with these pioneers and tell their stories. In the next series of posts, labelled Women in Dentistry, we will explore their life stories, the successes and the challenges that they have faced to change the face of dentistry. And we will also glimpse at the future through the lens of their experiences.

This conversation is with Dr. Cindy Lyon. Chair of Dental Practice and Community Service in the Arthur A. Dugooni School of Dentistry at the University of the Pacific. It was a real pleasure to meet her and hear her story of how she came into the profession of dentistry. 

I hope you enjoy the interview and share your feedback with us at oasisdiscussions@cda-adc.ca

Chiraz Guessaier, CDA Oasis Manager


Dr. Lyon has had an interesting and illustrious career in dentistry as a dental assistant, dental hygienist, a clinical dentist and most currently, in academia. What hasn’t she done? Her current role in academia presents her with several unique opportunities to shape future generations of dentists. The enthusiasm of dental students inspires her to continue to grow and learn to expand her knowledge base and share her knowledge and experience with not only students, but also her colleagues. This has been an excellent opportunity for her to provide leadership and mentorship to students as well.

From her experiences with organized dentistry and academia, Dr. Lyon has had the benefit of learning to be a team member – taking risks and rising to the challenges that lie in wait while having team support around her. Oftentimes, women in dentistry, as well as other vocations, perceive hidden and more overt biases. To this extent, women often feel as though they must be twice as qualified to apply for a position than their male counterparts. Often, women are challenged to succeed in work-life balance and trying to have it all.

Emerging healthcare trends (based on the ADA and CDAJ)

Presently, there are more institutions and organizations studying trends in gender differences in healthcare (medicine and dentistry), including the American Dental Association (ADA) Health Policy Institute. Some of these trends are as follows:

  • Percentage of female students in US dental schools is 50% or higher.
  • In dental faculties in the US, there are more females <40 years of age than in previous years.
  • Women appear to work 10% fewer days/year; however, the productivity/day is similar to male counterparts who work more hours.
  • With respect to number of hours worked, younger dentists work more hours than older dentists.
  • Peak number of hours worked by men was highest in the 35-45 age group compared to the 45-54 age group for women.
  • Women communicate more with patients and utilize conservative, preventive and education-based care
  • Women use surgical interventions less often.
  • After controlling for age/ethnicity, women are more likely to work in a public health setting and treat low income and Medicare patients compared to male dentists.

How will the contribution to dentistry change in the next 15 years?

Over the coming 15 years, there will be a shift towards biological versus mechanical care with a larger focus on prevention. Women practitioners are already shaping the care environment in this way. Additionally, we can look forward to a more authentic interprofessional care model that will promote cost-saving and lead to better health and wellness outcomes for patients. Ideally, women will also perceive and see limitless opportunities to contribute to organizations and patients’ well-being. Finally, as the younger generation enters the profession, they will be more thoughtful about work-life balance while volunteering and challenging themselves professionally.

Full Interview (28″)


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