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Dentist Shortage: A Toothy Problem in Ohio?

Reports sho there are not enough dentists to meet the demand of Ohioans. Credit: Dr. Benjamin R. Record/Flickr
Reports sho there are not enough dentists to meet the demand of Ohioans. Credit: Dr. Benjamin R. Record/Flickr
July 23, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Finding a dentist to ease dental woes is a toothy problem for many Ohioans.

A new report finds 84 areas in the state where there are not enough dentists to meet the demand, and the gap will continue to grow in Ohio over the next decade.

According to data from the Health Resources and Services Administration, by 2025 Ohio will be short by more than 600 dentists.

Dr. Barry Gibberman, a private practice dentist in Cincinnati, says there are economic impacts when adequate dental care is not available.

"Dental problems are among the highest number of expensive and avoidable visits to hospital emergency rooms," he says. "Untreated dental issues lead to lost work hours and missed school days. People with poor oral health might have difficulty finding employment."

Gibberman says the shortage makes getting oral health care especially difficult for low-income and rural Ohioans.

It's a different story when it comes to dental hygienists. The data shows that by 2025, there will be more hygienists than the demand.

Ohio law limits the services dental hygienists can provide, including some preventive services for which they are trained. Meagan Niewgodski, a hygienist in Columbus, says expanding their current scope would help improve access to oral health care in many communities.

"I could talk for hours on how rigorous the schooling and the license process is to become a hygienist," she says. "It's ironic to think of an oversupply of hygienists when so many Ohioans need basic preventative and restorative care."

In Ohio, the Dental Access Now! coalition is working to modernize dental laws to include the use of dental therapists. Gibberman says these mid-level providers works under a dentist's supervision providing routine services, including fillings and non-surgical extractions.

"Dental therapists have been providing high-quality services for decades in many countries, and recently in the U.S.," he says. "This addition to the dental team will provide a more efficient community-based approach to help improve access to needed dental care."

According to the data, all 50 states will see their dentist supply outpaced by demand between 2012 and 2025.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH