Zerita C. Buchanan, DDS, MPH


Dentist, Dental Dreams, LLC, Lithonia, GA; Senior VP of Health Equity, Innovation, and HBCU Engagement, BlueSky Collaborative Partners

Zerita C. Buchanan, DDS is a fourth-generation dentist and a proud HBCU graduate. Her commitment to health equity led her to be recognized as a “Healthcare Hero” by her alma mater Spelman College. Her private practice, Dental Dreams, LLC, serves as an innovation hub for HBCU students interested in the STEM sciences. Since 2014, Dr. Buchanan has served as the Assistant Director of Increasing Diversity in Dentistry (IDID), a national pipeline program for minority college students interested in pursuing a career in dentistry. She is an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated and The Links, Inc. Dr. Buchanan received her dental degree from UNC Adams School of Dentistry in 2014.


Learn more about The Joseph L. Henry Oral Health Fellowship in Minority Health Policy

Examining Commercial Dental Insurance Reimbursement Patterns by Geographic Area

Background: An income disparity exists in the field of dentistry. Data published by the American Dental Association Health Policy Institute in 2022 shows that, on average White dentists earn more ($254,860) than Asian ($202,967), Hispanic ($198,565), and Black ($170,097) dentists [1]. Factors such as Black dentists serving populations with higher ratios of Medicaid patients explain a portion of the income disparity. However, unexplained factors, including the role of private commercial dental insurance plans, still need to be analyzed. Despite Black dentists making less yearly income than their counterparts, black dental students graduate with the highest amount of educational debt. In order to attract and retain Black dentists to the workforce, income inequality must be addressed.


  1. Evaluate the role commercial dental insurance plans play in the wealth disparity between white and minoritized dentists.
  2. Examine whether or not commercial dental insurance reimbursement rates varied based on counties, zip codes, and provider race.


  1. Obtained financial data sets from a dental insights company that included average “in-network” submitted, allowed, and paid claim amounts from Q1 2022 for 10 CDT dental codes for all NPIs of dental providers licensed in Georgia.
  2. Obtained data sets of 2021 key dentist characteristics from the American Dental Association Health Policy Institute ( NPI, Race, Age, Year of Grad, Gender, Specialty, Practice Address, Practice Zip, Practice County).
  3. Merged the two data sets with 2021 census-related data.
  4. Completed two statistical analyses to evaluate commercial dental insurance reimbursement patterns based on county and zip codes.

Results: This study found that Black dentists submit lower fees to commercial insurance companies, receive lower contract rates from commercial insurance companies, and are paid lower amounts for procedures.

Future Directions:

  1. Advocate for standardized and equitable regulation of commercial dental insurance reimbursement payments.
  2. Explore “patient filtering” by race and insurance attractiveness in group practice settings and the implications that may have on racial income disparity in dentistry.

Preceptor: Marko Vujicic, Ph.D. Chief Economist & Vice President Health Policy Institute American Dental Association

Citations: [1]- Nasseh, K, Frogner, BK, Vujicic, M. A closer look at disparities in earnings between white and minoritized dentists. Health Serv Res. 2022; 1- 28. doi:10.1111/1475-6773.14095