Study: Miss. Has Country’s Worst Dentist ShortageBy Jeffrey Hess | Published 25 Jun 2013 08:54am |
More than a third of Mississippians live in an area with a shortage of dentists and dental care. That's according to a new report being released today. Mississippi has the worst dentist shortage in the country.
A shortage of dentists, high costs for visits, and many dentists refusing to take Medicaid is leaving many Mississippians without access to needed dental care.
A report from the Pew Charitable Trusts says Mississippi is facing the worst dentist shortage in the nation.
Shelly Gehshan with Pew says people often wait until a dental problem is severe and then go to the emergency room for treatment that could have been prevented.
"Roughly half of the children enrolled in medicaid in your state did not get any dental care in 2011. It also means more than a third of the population in your state is under-served for dental care and living in a dental shortage area," Gehshan said.
And the problem could only be getting worse because Gehshan says one third of all dentists in Mississippi are over the age of 55 and nearing retirement and there are not enough young dentists coming along to replace them.
Gary Reeds, the dean of the school of dentistry at The university of Mississippi medical center, says getting basic dental care could prevent much larger health problems.
"If you have a small cavity that can be fixed and proper oral hygiene and oral care to maintain the mouth in a health state than you don't let that develop into a further infection. And some infections can become life threatening," Reeds said.
One recommendation in the report is allowing dental hygienist to do more work with less oversight by a dentist.
Elisabeth Carr, the president of the Mississippi Dental Hygienist Association, says Mississippi is one of a few remaining states that require direct supervision of a dentist.
"If 47 out of 50 states dental hygienist are allow to provide fluoride and take x-rays and do something called a basic process. They are allowed to do that without a dentist present in the building. In fact many other states have been allowing dental hygienist to do that for many, many years," Carr said.
One bright spot according the pew research, more Mississippi cities are adding fluoride to their water which helps prevent decay.
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