A survey of graduating predoctoral students looked at the plans of future dentists and showed how the pandemic may have affected their plans.

The American Dental Education Association surveyed U.S. dental school seniors in the ADEA 2021 survey, a follow-up to a study conducted in 2016.

The study examined the journey of the dental school predoctoral class of 2021, examining students’ influences and motivations to pursue careers in dentistry.

The research attempts to understand the journey of predoctoral senior students of historically underrepresented race and ethnicity (HURE) groups by comparing their responses with the overall sample. In total, 2,975 students participated in the survey, making up 44.3% of the graduating class.

One key finding of the report was that nearly 40% of seniors planned to enter advanced education immediately after graduation, up from 34% in 2016.

For HURE students, almost half of respondents said they would enroll in advanced education, up from 38% in the previous survey.

More than half of students (58%) moving on to advanced education were interested in general dentistry programs, including general practice residency and advanced education in general dentistry.

Entering private practice remained the preferred professional choice for students, with 51% saying they planned to work in private practice upon graduation. Only 38% of HURE survey participants planned to work for a private practice.

Almost a third of respondents and nearly the same number of HURE students who said they would work in private practice intended to join a DSO.

The survey also found that the COVID-19 pandemic changed the professional plans of 23% of students, pushing this group towards advanced education.

Of the students who changed plans, 60% said they originally planned to practice dentistry before the pandemic, and 29% considered attending advanced education.

The pandemic seems to have pushed more students towards advanced education, but it also impacted students who might have wanted to work for a non-profit and caused others to consider teaching.

The full report is available online.

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