Nebraska Could Use More Dentists

If you have a cavity, rural Nebraska isn’t the place to be.

More than half of the 93 counties in Nebraska don’t have enough dentists, according to a report from the Center for Health Policy at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The report indicates that 20 counties don’t have a single dentist and 31 more counties only have one or two dentists. The future looks even bleaker, with 39 percent of dentists in the state approaching retirement.

To reverse this problem, it’s essential for the state to find ways to create incentives for dentists to open a practice in one of the underserved areas.

The state currently has programs that provide dental students with $20,000 to work in underserved areas but that is well below the going rate for such things.

Kim McFarland, one of the authors of the report, states that only about five or six of the 45 new dentists that enter practice each year start in a rural area. This does not bode well, considering 164 million work hours and 51 million school hours are lost every year, according to the American Dental Association.

In many cases, the nearest dentist may be two hours away. That makes scheduling appointments with preventive care in mind prohibitive.

The University of Nebraska and Creighton University are the only two dental schools in the state. They are operating at capacity now, so this problem likely won’t be going away any time soon.

The only counties in the state that aren’t encountering this problem are those with larger cities or towns.< /p>