Kentucky has launched a new dentist recruitment program to improve oral health in eastern Kentucky.
The Appalachian Dental Loan Forgiveness program will be administered by the dental schools at the universities of Kentucky and Louisville, and it includes $500,000 in state funds for loan forgiveness for dental students who practice in the region, according to a press release by Gov. Steve Beshear's office. Two to five awardees will receive $100,000 each for a two-year commitment. Awardees will receive $50,000 initially and $50,000 at the end of the first two-year award cycle. Priority will be given to dental students from eastern Kentucky who want to return to practice in the area.
Eligible candidates include dentists who are establishing or joining a new private practice, or purchasing an existing practice in an Appalachian Regional Commission distressed county. Recent graduates also are eligible.
The goal of the program is to reduce the percentage of children in eastern Kentucky with untreated dental decay by 25% and increase adult dental visits in the region by 10% by 2019, according to the release.
"The vast majority of both childhood and adult dental problems could be avoided through routine dental care and other preventive efforts," Beshear stated. This unique program and partnership will truly expand dental hygiene and help counter oral disease as a major health risk for our people."
Kentucky ranks 41st among U.S. states in annual dental visits, 45th in the percentage of children with untreated dental decay, and 47th in the percentage of adults 65 and older missing six or more teeth, according to the Kentucky Department of Public Health.