Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Departmental Honors


Economics and Finance


Occupational licensing laws have a large effect on the American economy and requirements affect all levels of professional work, from hairdressers and plumbers to doctors and lawyers.Those laws vary by state and exist to protect consumers from asymmetric information problems. Yet a growing body of literature finds that occupational licensing raises costs for consumers without necessarily raising the quality of service.

The dental field is one such sector of employment that commonly is licensed. Oral health is an important indicator of overall individual health and general wellbeing. Unfortunately, consumers lack access to dental care in many parts of the United States. As of December 31, 2018, nearly 6,000 Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) had been identified in the 50 US states. Around 58 million people live in those shortage areas, and it is estimated that more than 10,000 practitioners are necessary to meet the needs of the affected populations.

Dental licensing is meant to protect consumers and ensure that technical procedures are being performed only by practitioners with the appropriate skills and levels of training. However, that requirement also increases the cost of less technical procedures that, under current regulations also must be performed by licensed dentists; those rules, restrict the availability of dental care. Mid-level providers such as dental hygienists and dental therapists could increase access to dental care without compromising quality.



Faculty Mentor

William F. Shughart II

Departmental Honors Advisor

Paul B. Fjeldsted