July 9, 2013
Florida is in 29th place out of all 50 states for its dentist-to-population ratio, which is currently 1:1,961. Since most of Florida could be considered a dental health professional shortage area (dental HPSA), Dr. Henley-Brown suggests that the state of Florida take some measures to improve the lives of its citizens. Indeed, 64 out of 67 counties include a shortage area – that is, if the entire county hasn’t been designated a dental HPSA. That leaves 20% of the population living in one.
According to the Pew Center, 830,000 emergency room visits were the result of preventable dental health issues in 2009. Because treating preventable diseases is a lot more expensive than preventing them in the first place, Dr. Henley-Brown has a few suggestions on how to improve access to oral health care; it is, after all, a leading indicator of a person’s overall health, according to a 2012 study by the Department of Health.
Her suggestions are as follows:
- Branches of the military should work with Delta Dental to lower the cost of members’ monthly premiums to help military personnel access care
- Insurance should cover all preventive procedures
- Employers should implement wellness initiatives
- State and federal governments should change legislation and increase funding to expand access to care for those in HPSAs
- Medicaid reimbursement should be higher
- Alternate providers should be used – professionals such as dental therapists (DT)or advanced dental hygiene practitioners (ADHP) – something theADA opposes
- Florida should implement theAffordable Care Act
- The University of Florida should train its dental students in underserved areas
Perhaps Florida will follow in South Dakota’s footsteps, when, after receiving a “D” on the Pew Center report on dental prevention, the state passed the South Dakota Dental Practice Act, allowing dental hygienists to provide basic dental care to patients before a dentist has assessed their oral health.
Map of Florida's dental HPSAs taken from this map.