West Texas, northern Alaska, Big Sky country, the Plains states. Though vastly different in geography and topography, these regions share one commonality — they are all predominantly rural areas. According to the 2010 United States Census, these and other rural areas are home to more than 60 million people, or about 19% of the U.S. population. There are many advantages to living in a rural area. Rural residents commonly report community camaraderie, peace and quiet, lower cost of living, more privacy, fresh air, and less traffic as benefits of living in a less populated area. However, there is a disproportionate shortage of dental professionals in rural versus urban areas.
Rural practices: Needs and advantages
According to the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, there are 4,518 rural (or partially rural) areas in the United States classified as Health Professional Shortage Areas. HPSAs must have a population-to-provider ratio of a certain threshold. For dental care, the population to provider ratio must be at least 5,000 to 1 (4,000 to 1 if there are unusually high needs in the community). Rural HPSA areas, home to more than 31 million people, or more than half of all rural Americans, may not have adequate access to dental providers. A June 2015 report by the Rural Health Research and Policy Center notes that for every 100,000 people in rural areas, there were only 24.3 practicing dentists. In contrast, urban areas had 36.7 practicing dentists per 100,000 people.
Finish reading this article in the November/December issue of Contour magazine.
~Jody Pfeuffer, Missouri ’23