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In Oklahoma, access to dental care remains an issue
Updated: 6/18/2013 11:59:58 AM
 

Throughout the U.S., many people are experiencing problems with their dental health.

Throughout the U.S., many people are experiencing problems with their dental health. According to a 2012 report from Chairman Bernard Sanders on the Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, an estimated 47 million Americans live in areas of the country where they have trouble accessing a dentist. This may keep them from seeing the dentist the recommended two times a year, which may increase their risk of experiencing tooth decay. 

People in rural areas in particular may have a hard time finding a dentist to care for them. For example, according to a recent article published by NewsOK, many people in Oklahoma are experiencing dental problems, and it could be due to the fact that there is an insufficient number of dentists in the state. 

Not enough dentists 
The news source spoke to Randi Hobbs, D.D.S., of Arbuckle Dental in Sulphur, Okla. She explained that many people come into her office with teeth that are already decayed and many of them need to be extracted. 

"They're usually malnourished, they're sick, they're already in pain," she told NewsOK. "We're trying to get them out of pain."

While there are many possible causes behind this dental health issue, the small number of dentists in rural areas of the state may be to blame. There are an estimated 2,000 dentists in Oklahoma, but most of them are located in the major cities, while few practice in the rural parts of the state. This leaves many residents of rural areas to have to travel for an hour or more in order to reach a dentist, which is why many of them may head to an emergency room when they have dental problems, since there is likely a hospital closer to them than a dental office. 

The news source noted that in 2010, Oklahoma was ranked last out of all the states when it came to the percentage of adults who visited a dentist in the previous year. Furthermore, 25 percent of adults in the state have had their natural teeth extracted.

These numbers highlight the need for Oklahoma residents to gain greater dental education and access to dentists. 

"If we can get some headway with education, fluoride and sealants on children's teeth, then I think it would reduce the amount of tooth decay we see in our adults," Jana Winfree, chief of dental health services at the Oklahoma Department of Health, told NewsOK. 

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