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As the leader of a progressive, multidisciplinary oral health care organization with nearly 100 affiliated practices across the state and beyond, I have first-hand knowledge of the dentist shortage in Arkansas. That’s why our team at Rock Dental Brands is thrilled with the recent announcement that Lyon College of Batesville plans to open a dental school in Little Rock, just around the corner from our support center. This is encouraging news for our industry and, more importantly, for the health of Arkansans.
The proposed dental school will provide a much-needed pipeline to address the problem of access to oral health care, the lack of which has contributed to the state’s consistent ranking among the worst in the nation for oral health. .
Arkansas came in last in an Express Dentist ranking of dental health by state released Jan. 1. Express Dentist is a national dental care provider. The study looked at 25 dental health factors, and Arkansas scored lowest, behind the other 49 states and Washington, D.C., in dental care availability, dental habits, and health status. oral health.
According to the study, a small percentage of adults in Arkansas said they had visited the dentist in the past year, and a high percentage of Arkansans over the age of 65 said they had had all their teeth removed. teeth due to tooth decay or gum disease.
It is easy to see how access to quality dental care is the cornerstone to solving the problem, due to its potential effect on other contributing factors. This is especially true for preventative care, which research consistently shows is cheaper and more effective in the long run than treatment. The Express Dentist study placed Arkansas among the lowest for the number of dentists serving its population.
Currently, our team is actively recruiting dentists from other states. An in-state dental school means we can recruit right here in Arkansas. It also means a direct channel of providers to meet Arkansans oral health care needs.
The American Dental Association reports that there are just 41 dentists per 100,000 people in our state, the second-lowest in the nation, according to 2021 data. The national average is 61 dentists per 100,000 people, several states showing dentist counts in the 70s and 80s. The access problem in Arkansas is more pronounced in low-income rural areas.
Poor dental health has far-reaching negative effects on individuals and the community. It is linked to other health problems like heart disease and also affects mental health.
At Rock Dental Brands, we take our own responsibility to promote access through education and challenge misconceptions about the cost of care that may prevent low-income people from making appointments. We offer flexible financing options to patients to ensure that finances do not interfere with the quality of dental care. Our main mission is to make quality care accessible to all patients throughout their lives.
Our team looks forward to working with the Collegiate Institute of Health Sciences of Lyon, and we are happy to have them as our future neighbors on the former Heifer International campus here in Little Rock. Rock Dental Brands strives to improve every day, but this new dental school will transform the industry in ways that will positively affect the dental health of our communities for generations to come.
The Express Dentist dental health survey, ranked by state, places Connecticut first for the best oral health in the nation, followed by Washington, DC and Massachusetts. Arkansas ranked last, No. 51, preceded by West Virginia, No. 50, and Louisiana, No. 49. To see the full survey, go to arkansasbusiness.com/expressdentist.