By Tony Edwards, DrBicuspid.com editor in chief

April 9, 2018 -- The Kaiser Family Foundation has released the latest data on the number of areas in the U.S. and territories that are considered dental care health professional shortage areas (HPSAs). More than 5,800 such areas require over 10,800 additional dentists to address these care needs as of December 31, 2017.

Larger states such as California and Texas have the highest number of dental care HPSA designations, but a comparison of the data shows that Florida and Arizona have more people in need of care.

10,000 more dentists needed

For an area to be considered an HPSA, it must have a population-to-dentist ratio of 5,000 to 1 or greater, according to U.S. government regulations. In some communities with high needs, that ratio drops to 4,000 to 1.

There are 5,866 such areas in the U.S. and territories, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Bureau of Health Workforce, Health Resources and Service Administration, cited by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Almost 63 million people are in need of care in these areas.

California has the most areas needing dental providers, but Florida has the greatest total population needing care and requires the most dentists to address the population (see table below).

In the tables, the number of practitioners needed to remove the HPSA designation column shows the number of additional dentists needed in a state (or in the District of Columbia) to bring the population-to-dentist ratio to 5,000 to 1.

U.S. states with most dental HPSAs
State No. of areas Total population needing care No. of dentists needed to remove designation
California 439 1,229,760 258
Texas 322 4,203,364 383
Michigan 283 1,323,505 321
Arizona 257 4,640,143 792
Florida 223 5,185,561 1,169

Smaller U.S. states generally fare better in terms of number of designated provider shortage areas (see table below). Overall, Nebraska has the smallest population needing care (7,816), but that state has 81 dental HPSAs. Nebraska is the only state that needs no additional dental practitioners to treat the population needing care.

U.S. states with fewest dental HPSAs
State No. of areas Population needing care No. of dentists needed to remove designation
New Hampshire 24 39,527 6
Hawaii 20 40,313 7
Rhode Island 14 178,655 34
District of Columbia 11 83,820 20
Delaware 10 178,124 50

To see the data in full or to create your own reports, visit the Kaiser Family Foundation website.

DrBicuspid.com will continue our coverage of this newly released Kaiser Family Foundation data with a look at the number of dental practitioners and specialists in the U.S.


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