Underserved Communities Hardest Hit by Dental Shortage, Report Finds
California's shortage of dentists affects rural, low-income and minority state residents the most, according to a new report from UCSF's Center for the Health Professions. Researchers surveyed 19,801 dentists and found that two-thirds of California communities that do not have dentists are rural, and many of these communities also lack fluoridated water. Overall, the report found that at least one out of every five counties may have a dental shortage. While minority dentists are more likely to work in minority communities, the survey revealed that such providers constitute a "small portion of the dental workforce." Elizabeth Mertz, lead author of the report and project director at the center, said, "We have a crisis in access to care in our state. The numbers of children with untreated dental decay is alarming, particularly in underserved communities." The report, which appears in the summer issue of the Journal of Public Health Dentistry, calls for an expansion of programs designed to increase educational opportunities in dentistry for minorities, as well as greater recruitment of students in rural areas and more "targeted dental service programs" for underserved communities (UCSF release, 9/25).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.