Thursday, July 14, 2011

Millions in U.S. Lack Access to Dentists

Fewer than half of Americans see a dentist each year and millions live in areas where access to dental care is severely limited, a new analysis from the health policy group Institute of Medicine (IOM) finds.

A severe shortage of dentists, especially those serving rural and minority groups, is contributing to the "persistent and systemic" barriers to oral health care, the report noted.

According to the report:

33 million Americans live in areas that are underserved by dental health professionals.
4.6 million children went without dental checkups in 2008 because their families could not afford them.
In 2006, almost two-thirds of retirees (62%) did not have adequate dental coverage.

The IOM committee concluded that around 9,600 additional dentists would be needed to meet the needs of underserved populations in the United States.

"We have the lowest ratio of dentists to population that we have had in 100 years," says Shelly Gehshan, who directs the Pew Children's Dental Campaign. "This is a serious problem that leaves 40 to 50 million people out of reach of a dentist at any given moment."

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