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Health and Medicine

Ohio's has a shortage of dentists, especially in rural areas
Twenty six of 32 Appalachian counties have designated shortage areas

Jo Ingles
Dental Access Now says getting dentists to practice in rural areas is also a problem in Ohio
Courtesy of Werneuchen
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In The Region:
Two years ago, 59 of Ohio’s 88 counties were identified as having too few dentists to meet the needs of their communities.

David Maywhoor of Dental Access Now says a new report shows the problem is getting worse -- especially in rural counties.
Ohio's shortage of dentists

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“There is no surprise that southern and southeastern Ohio have the highest concentration of dental shortage areas. Consider that, of Ohio’s 32 Appalachian counties, 26 have designated countywide dental shortage areas. Another three have only a couple designated community or facility shortage areas.”

Dental Access Now’s study says a fifth of Ohio’s children lack dental insurance and more than half experience dental decay by third grade. About 340,000 Ohio children have never been to a dentist.

And the study shows adults are lacking in care, too. Almost 45 percent of adults in the Buckeye State have had permanent teeth removed due to tooth decay or gum disease. The same number do not have dental insurance. And more than a third of Ohio’s poorest seniors have had all of their teeth removed. 

But advocates say even middle-class Ohioans lack needed dental care.

Colette Haley of Columbus is one of them. She’s a small business owner with no dental insurance. 

"As a result, I have broken teeth and an abscessed tooth that I cannot afford to get taken care of and I cannot afford to get routine dental checkups or teeth cleanings." 

How to get dentists to practice in rural areas?
Dental Access Now says more needs to be done to encourage dentists to practice in rural areas. And it thinks Medicaid expansion could help, too.

Primrose Barker works with health-care needs of Head Start children. She says legislators need to change the law to allow dental hygienists to become registered dental providers, much as nurses become nurse practitioners in the medical field.

"We’ve got wonderful hygienists out there who have fantastic abilities that, with additional schooling ... would attain a similar position in the dental or oral health field."

A cost-benefit analysis recently done in Minnesota shows that registered dental practitioners can save the state money because they cost less than a dentist. 

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