Action for Dental Health
Washington, D.C., June 24, 2013 – As attention to the dental crisis in America increases, a “shortage of dentists” is frequently cited as a major barrier to access to care for underserved populations. Proponents of this view further state that retirement among Baby Boomer dentists will worsen the problem. This then leads to calls for alternative providers to solve this workforce shortage. But is the size of the dentist workforce really a major factor affecting access disparities? The facts cast serious doubt on that notion.
- States that had increases in the percent of the population un-served according to the HPSA methodology actually did better in terms of access for children covered by Medicaid than those that had decreases in dental HPSAs.
- Access to dental care among Medicaid children actually increased in 47 out of 50 states between 2000 and 2011.
- Between 2010 and 2012, the portion of the US population living in dental HPSAs actually decreased to less than 10 percent, lower than the equivalent measure for primary medical care providers.
- Nationally, 40 percent of dentists report that their practices can accommodate more patients. That percentage has increased substantially in the past five years.
- Mississippi ranks 17th in improving access to dental care for Medicaid children. The portion of Medicaid kids with a dental visit went from 22 percent in 2000 to 43 percent in 2011, despite the fact that Mississippi has the biggest dentist shortage, in terms of the percent of the population un-served, according to the government’s Health Professions Shortage Area (HPSA) methodology.
If the numbers of HPSAs and dentists do not correlate to access to dental care, what can be done to address the dental crisis in America? This year, the American Dental Association launched a major campaign, Action for Dental Health, to achieve a specific set of bold goals to dramatically reduce untreated dental disease in America by providing care now to people suffering with untreated disease, strengthening and expanding the public/private safety net to provide more care to more Americans, and bringing dental health education and disease prevention into communities. Action for Dental Health will demonstrate measureable success in improving dental health in underserved communities without major increases in the numbers of dentists or by adding additional providers to treat cavities, by better utilizing and improving resources already available.
ADA Health Policy Resources Center analyses relating to access to dental care can be found here.
About the American Dental Association
The not-for-profit ADA is the nation’s largest dental association, representing 157,000 dentist members. The premier source of oral health information, the ADA has advocated for the public’s health and promoted the art and science of dentistry since 1859. The ADA’s state-of-the-art research facilities develop and test dental products and materials that have advanced the practice of dentistry and made the patient experience more positive. The ADA Seal of Acceptance long has been a valuable and respected guide to consumer dental care products. The monthly The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) is the ADA’s flagship publication and the best-read scientific journal in dentistry. For more information about the ADA, visit www.ada.org. For more information on oral health, including prevention, care and treatment of dental disease, visit the ADA’s consumer website www.MouthHealthy.org.