More than 48 million people in the United States live in areas with dentist shortages. Access to care is also limited for the 72 million children and adults who rely on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program: Only about one-third of U.S. dentists accept public insurance.
Left untreated, dental health problems can cause pain and tooth loss, impair children’s growth and social development, impede productivity and job opportunities, exacerbate chronic conditions, and complicate detection of oral cancers. And when dental pain becomes too severe to ignore, many people—more than 2 million in 2012—resort to emergency room visits, which provide no treatment for underlying oral health problems but have a high price for patients and taxpayers: $1.6 billion in 2012, with Medicaid’s share totaling $520 million.
Pew’s dental campaign works to close gaps in dental care access by increasing the number of available providers and expanding the reach of preventive services through the use of dental sealant programs in high-need schools. Research shows that such programs are a valuable, cost-effective way to treat the children most at risk of tooth decay
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On Feb. 9, the Washington state House of Representatives passed a bill to allow Native American tribes to receive federal funding needed to sustain tribal clinics that use a midlevel dental provider. Earlier in February, S.S.B. 5079 passed the Senate unanimously. Read More
A model dental therapy curriculum is newly available to community colleges and universities interested in launching programs that prepare this workforce. Crafted to meet dental therapy guidelines issued in 2015 by the Commission on Dental Accreditation, the sample curriculum can help educational institutions streamline the often arduous process of developing new training programs. Read More
More than 850,000 New Mexicans live in areas designated by the federal government as dental health professional shortage areas—defined as one dentist for 5,000 or more people. Sizable portions of counties in the state fall into this category; 32 of the 33 counties are designated shortage areas, including all of: Catron, Chaves, Cibola, Colfax, Curry, De Baca, Eddy, Grant, Guadalupe,... Read More
Working With Midlevel Providers
Dentists share their perspectives on these practitioners.