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07 January 2022

Rural California communities short on dental clinicians

Katherine E. Pfaff

Legacy Health Endowment, a nonprofit focused on providing grant funding for healthcare, and EMC Health Foundation, which aims to provide access to care for rural Californians, have raised a call for dental care needs in Central Valley’s Merced and Stanislaus counties. Dental and oral health care is lacking in the counties’ residents with low levels of income, according to a report created by a collaboration between LHE, EMC, and the University of the Pacific School of Dentistry. The areas are also impacted by a lack of dental professionals to care for the residents. 

Though adequate care is a problem for all age groups, children and the elderly are at greatest risk, as the area sees a lack of dental providers. Children of low-income households in the rural counties are likely to have coverage through the state program, Medi-Cal, however, patients are often not receiving preventive care. At the same time, the elderly in the region are not receiving care to the degree that is needed, especially considering that common medications can exacerbate oral health conditions. 

Across adult populations in the area, the patients who do not receive state or employer coverage but cannot afford dental care costs, treatments and dental appointments are often choosing not to receive care.

Through EMC and LHE, access to dental care is being improved with funding to would-be dental students. Under the collaboration, local students who agree to attend UOP School of Dentistry can participate in a fellowship that pays for all tuition. Following graduation, the students would work for at least 3 years as a dentist within the communities served by the organizations. Students are also encouraged to study additional languages to communicate with patients of various ethnicities.

Source: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/stanislaus-and-merced-counties-face-dental-provider-shortages-301450624.html

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