The recent announcement by Lyon College that it intends to establish a dental school in Little Rock is welcome news for a state that has had persistent dental access issues, ACHI Health Policy Director Craig Wilson, a Lyon alum, writes in his latest column for Talk Business & Politics.
Wilson notes that according to an ACHI report released this month, there were 11 Arkansas counties that had more than 5,000 residents per active dentist in 2019. An area with a ratio of 5,000 or more residents per dentist classifies as a dental provider shortage area, according to the federal Health Resources and Services Administration. Two counties — Cleveland and Lafayette — had no active dentist at all in 2019.
But the biggest barrier to dental care in Arkansas is cost, according to Wilson, who cites an American Dental Association report which found that among those without a visit to the dentist in the last 12 months, 72% of Arkansans cited cost as their reason for not visiting the dentist more frequently.
Wilson suggests that dentistry could soon undergo major changes, including elimination of the artificial division between dentistry and other areas of medicine and a shift away from a disease-centered approach toward a focus on patients’ overall wellness.
The announcement of a planned dental school in Arkansas should “serve as a call to redouble our efforts to tackle the dental access challenges we face as a state and ensure that oral health is more commonly addressed as a critical part of our overall health,” he writes.
For more discussion of dental access issues in Arkansas, see ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson’s latest column for the Healthcare Journal of Arkansas.