West Texas Dental Shortage? Article in Dallas Morning News Rebuttal
Suggest you review the data independently. This was in the Dallas Morning News after a CDOT commentary.
“West Texas dental shortage won’t fix itself
New Texas Tech school necessary to properly serve region, Richard A. Lange and Richard Black say
Why does Texas need another dental school? With an expanding Texas population, a shortage of dentists in West Texas and an aging dental workforce, the need for additional dentists is apparent. History has shown that the graduates of Texas’ current dental schools are not likely to fill the workforce shortages of West Texas and the El Paso region, where the proposed Woody L. Hunt School of Dental Medicine will be located.
Both West Texas and El Paso have been designated as dental health professional shortage areas by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. While the entire state lingers below the nation’s average ratio of dentists to citizens, West Texas and the border region face the highest shortage of dentists in Texas. Currently, Texas ranks 33rd in the nation in terms of the number of practicing dentists per 100,000 people. Compounding that deficit, El Paso County is ranked 112 out of 197 Texas counties that have dentists, reporting a ratio of only 20.9 general dentists per 100,000 residents. That’s approximately 15 dentists below the ratio for Texas and a staggering 27 dentists below the national ratio (a 57 percent shortage compared to the national average). Alarmingly, 54 counties in Texas have no dentists, with most of these located in West Texas.
Though the state of Texas has three high-performing dental schools in Dallas, San Antonio and Houston, graduates are not relocating to West Texas at a rate that is adequate to relieve the shortage faced by the region. Statistically, the majority (75 percent) of Texas dental school graduates establish practices near their professional school alma mater. Hence, the state’s existing dental schools are not likely to solve the critical need for oral health care in West Texas.
Over the past 10 years, the number of Texas dental school graduates practicing in West Texas or in the Upper Rio Grande have been on the decline. In 2017, of 304 Texas dental school graduates, only one chose to practice in West Texas and only two opened practices in the Upper Rio Grande.
Since 2007, only 22 dentists, or 0.9 percent of the state’s total graduates, have chosen to establish their practices in West Texas, and only 22 in the Upper Rio Grande region.
Unfortunately, this shortage of dentists is expected to worsen over the next decade; 37 percent of Texas’ general dentist workforce is at or approaching retirement age (over 55 years of age). By 2025, nearly 45 percent of the state’s general dentist workforce will be at, or past, retirement age.
Previous attempts to resolve the regional disparities by increasing class sizes at the existing dental schools and offering a dental loan repayment program have been ineffective in addressing the shortage of dentists in West Texas and border regions.
Admissions to the three existing dental schools have increased 27 percent over the past 15 years, with no improvement in the shortage of dentists in West Texas.
The current dental schools in Texas are located on the Interstate 35 corridor and eastern third of the state, while Texas’ oral health disparities that pose risks to overall health are most concentrated in its rural and border regions. The rural regions of the state have lower rates of dental visits with their concentration of low-income, food insecure, underserved populations.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that almost half (45 percent) of adults in El Paso did not visit a dentist or dental clinic in 2016.
The facts above speak for themselves.
Texas needs the Woody L. Hunt School of Dental Medicine.
Dr. Richard A. Lange is president of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso.
Dr. Richard Black is dean of Woody L. Hunt of Dental Medicine at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso and a district trustee for the American Dental Association.”