Out of the 93 counties in Nebraska, 48 are designated as a dentistry shortage area and 20 counties don’t have a dentist at all. Those are some of the results from a news study conducted by the Center for Health Policy at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. Dr. Kim McFarland co-authored the study and is a professor at UNMC’s College of Dentistry and says many dentists in their 70’s and 80’s are still practicing in rural areas so one goal is to increase the number of those wanting to set up shop in those locations.
The report shows several possible solutions that include giving dental hygienists a wider range for preventive and basic practice and utilizing sites of other health care providers where a dental hygienist could practice preventive care. Several other suggestions include making sure everyone has access to fluoridated water and increase the student loan reimbursement rate for those who agree to practice in shortage areas.
Dr. McFarland says simply increasing the number of graduates isn’t the answer because the two dental schools in the state are already at capacity. In 2012, there were 1,028 dentists in the state and 53% practiced part time and fewer than 40% were practicing in rural areas.