Iowa Reflects Nationwide Group Dentistry Phenomenon

A recent study completed by researchers with the University of Iowa Public Policy Center reveals almost half of Iowa’s dentists are near retirement age.  Data from the Iowa Dentist Tracking System (IDTS) were used to examine dentist workforce trends and improve statewide efforts to recruit and retain dental providers to underserved communities in Iowa. Iowa’s Center for Public Policy brief  says that, “the dentist tracking system was established in 1997. Since then, all active Iowa dentists have been contacted biannually for updated information regarding individual and practice characteristics.”

The data reveals that Iowa is reflective of the nationwide dental trend towards group dentistry: “From 1997- 2013, there was a marked increase in the proportion of Iowa private practice dentists who worked in a group practice (41% to 52%), and a concomitant decrease in the number of dentists in solo practice (59% to 43%). Half of the solo practitioners were over age 55 compared to 30% of group practitioners.

As of 2012, only 18% of physicians nationwide worked in a solo practice, whereas in 2010, 69% of private practice dentists were practicing solo. Although changes in the dental care system have not kept pace with changes in medicine, the proportion of dentists nationwide who work in solo practices is slowly declining. Over the past 17 years, the predominant practice arrangement in Iowa has shifted from solo to group practice, a trend that is also seen nationally as large group practices become more common.”

The authors of Iowa’s Center for Public Policy brief are Julie Reynolds, visiting assistant professor, Susan McKernan, assistant professor, and Raymond Kuthy, professor at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry and the University of Iowa Public Policy Center. The authors conclude their brief by saying, “corporate dental practice is also becoming more common nationally; thus, future monitoring should continue to assess changes associated with this phenomenon.”

Practice setting of Iowa private practice dentists, 1997- 2013



Characteristics of Iowa private practice dentists by practice setting, 2013










Sources:  Iowa’s Center for Public Policy Brief: Changes in Practice Settings of Iowa Dentist, 1997-2013, Iowa Dentist Tracking System (IDTS), University of Iowa Public Policy Center