Louisiana Doesn’t Have Enough Dentists

Louisiana has a dental shortage that can rival any other state in the United States.

The new report released by Pew Charitable Trusts showed that more than 24 percent of the state’s population is underserved by dentists. The dentist shortage in Louisiana is tied with Alabama, behind only Mississippi.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that around 42 percent of these dentists are older than 55.

The information came to light as the state Department of Health and Hospitals is reducing reimbursement rates to dentists that stem from Medicaid. Dentists say this will lower access to services.

But the DHH doesn’t believe this will have a major impact on dentists.

The information from this study—and many previous ones—indicates that people without early exposure to dental care will encounter more serious dental problems that could have been prevented easily, if only they had prior routine dental care.

The $2.8 million reduction for Medicaid payments comes in addition to the 14 percent for some of the more frequently billed procedures, according to the Louisiana Dental Association.

Based on information from the DDH, however, 43 percent of children on Medicaid received dental treatment in the 2011-12 fiscal year. That’s a 13-percent rise from where the numbers were in the 2007-08 fiscal year.

The way things transpire in the future is anyone’s guess. More dentists may back out of the Medicaid program or more changes may be made to lure them back in.