INTRODUCTION: With the problems of access to NHS primary dental care services in the last few years attention has focused on manpower considerations for dentistry. MATERIALS AND METHOD: This paper presents the results of a simple survey of general dental practitioners in South Staffordshire. RESULTS: The response rate was 88%. Most dentists (76%) reported working over 30 hours a week. A small number reported working more than 50 hours a week. Woman dentists were more likely to report working fewer than 31 hours a week. Younger male dentists tended to work longer hours than older male dentists, whereas younger women dentists tended to work fewer hours than older women. The reported retirement plans suggested that around 16% of dentists in their 40s and 50s were planning to retire before 60. CONCLUSION: The findings add weight to the view that woman dentists tend to work fewer hours but studies of cohorts are required to examine the impact of premature retirement and the reasons behind this apparent gender difference.