A Dental Desert? Missouri’s Struggle with a Dentist Shortage
A lack of access to dental care can bring about more problems than you may think. Dental care is linked to the health of our overall body which means that the problems we have with our teeth and gums affect other areas of our body. A problem begins to arise when we aren’t able to get access or we don’t have access to proper dental care. This leads to increased dental problems and health related disease that are preventable. This problem has been surfacing in the state of Missouri and a solution is desperately needed.
Missouri as a whole is ranked very high on the list of states for people that don’t have access to dental care. This means a huge percentage of residents don’t go to the dentist or get check ups. This problem is also true for the children in Missouri. Although it is can be hard to categorize why a whole state of people aren’t receiving dental care, in Missouri’s case we actually do know why. The state of Missouri has a shortage of dentist. While that may seem extreme to say, it is actually true. The Robert Wood Foundation figured out that the patient to dentist ratio in Missouri is 2,168 to 1. The average number is 1,516 to 1, which means that Missouri has twice as many patients to dentists in the nation. The problem is even worse when they found out that 50% of the dentists in Missouri, plan to retire which creates an even larger shortage of dentists in the state.
Before October 1st, 2013 there was only one dental school in the whole state which adds to the reason of why there are so little dentists in the state. To fix or at least minimize the shortage of dentists, a new dental school has opened. Missouri School of Dentistry & Oral Health was created to give the people of missouri more access to dentistry. The mission of the school is to serve those that are uninsured, underinsured and people that are living in rural areas. The first class of 42 students that began dental classes in Kirksville, Missouri will be provided with services and contact information to transition into the new area and will receive special training to emphasis the importance of patient care experience. The addition of this dental school in Missouri is great for the residents whose only other dental school was The University of Missouri in Kansas City.
Although the addition of this dental school does not solve all of the dental problems in Missouri, This is a huge step forward for possibly more students to attend dental school and try to minimize the shortage of dentists in the state. More programs need to be implemented to promote the importance of regular dental check ups and proper dental care. Fixing something as simple as a smile, can decrease your chances for other health problems and prevent severe diseases. It’s important to spend time on your teeth and oral care so you can use your teeth for the rest of your life.
Victoria Cairo is a blogger for Greenspoint Dental in Houston, Texas. As a former Missouri resident she understands how the lack of access to dental care can impact your smile.