Thursday, May 15, 2014

5 States with the Worst Dentist Shortage

Before revealing the 5 States with the Worst Dentist Shortage, a few words about the national problem.  The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) designates nearly 4,900 geographic areas, population groups or facilities across the country has having a dental care shortage.  More than 47 million people, or about 15% of the U.S. population, live in one of these dental care shortage areas.  The trait shared by these areas is that each has fewer than 1 dentist for every 5,000 people who live in the area. 

Based on May, 2014 data, the HRSA estimates that more than 7,200 additional dentists are needed to provide adequate care to residents of these shortage areas.  As with the shortage of primary care physicians, the dentist shortage is expected to worsen in coming years as the growth in demand for dental care services will outpace growth in the number of practicing dentists.

In our last commentary, 5 States with the Worst Primary Care Shortage, we noted that raw shortage numbers alone do not provide a good picture of the problem at the State level.  States with bigger populations typically have bigger dentist shortage numbers than many small States.  Yet relative to their population size, a small State can easily have a more severe dentist shortage problem than their larger brethren.  The variable that keys our analysis is a State's dentist shortage in relation to the size of its population.  To be a candidate for our "5 States with the Worst Dentist Shortage" list, a State has to have a shortage that is disproportionately large for the State's total population.  All 5 of the States on our list are ones where their share of the total national dentist shortage is significantly greater than their share of the total national population.

So who are the 5 States with the Worst Dentist Shortage?

At number 5 in our countdown is Tennessee.  Per the HRSA's May, 2014 data, Tennessee is short 353 dentists, or about 4.9% of the 7,200 dentist shortage nationally.  Since the State accounts for about 2% of the national population, their dentist shortage is 2.4X greater than what one would expect given the State's relative population size. Only 4 States had disproportionately worse dentist shortage conditions than did Tennessee.

In 4th place on our list is Alabama.  Its shortage of 304 dentists is about 4.2% of the national total.  In comparison, its population is 1.5% of the national population, so the State's shortage is over 2.7X more than one would expect to see for a State the size of Alabama.

Coming in 3rd from the bottom of our list is Arizona.  Its dentist shortfall is 6% of the national shortage, while its population is 2.1% of the national total.  Having 6% of the national dentist shortfall, while having only 2.1% of the national population, is abysmal, even if it is better than our bottom two.

Not that it is of much comfort, but Arizonans only need to look their neighbors to the East to find an even worse dentist shortage than their own.  The next to last place on our worst dentist shortage list belongs to New Mexico. The state's dentist shortage is about 1.93% of the national total based on current HRSA data.  That is over 2.9X what one would expect given that the state has just 0.66% of the national population.

And coming in dead last on our list of the 5 States with the Worst Dentist shortage is Mississippi.  The State is 206 dentists short of what it needs.  That raw number comes to 2.86% of the national shortfall total, while its population is just 0.94% of the national population.  At just over 3X more than one would expect considering its small share of the total U.S. population, Mississippi has the most disproportionate dentist shortage in the country.

Congratulations to our 5 bottom-dwellers for their pitiful dental care state of affairs.