Everyone deserves access to affordable dental care, but unfortunately some people find it more difficult than others to find a dentist who will look after their teeth for the right price. Some people even struggle to find any dentists at all in their area. For example, individuals who live in rural areas may have to travel many miles to reach the nearest dentist, which may keep them from keeping regular dental appointments or going to see a professional when they are experiencing mouth pain.
For example, the Bangor Daily News recently reported that people who live in rural parts of Maine are having a particularly bad time gaining access to professional dental care, and this could have serious consequences.
The problem is getting worse
According to the news source, a recently released report commissioned by the Maine Legislature in 2011 found that 55 percent of children who have government-sponsored insurance still don't have regular access to a dentist because they live in rural areas. This isn't surprising, considering that, although two-thirds of Maine residents live in rural areas, just 13.5 percent of dentists practice in those regions.
"This study paints a bleak picture of access to basic dental care for children in Maine," Ned McCann, executive director of the Maine Children's Alliance, said in a news release announcing the report. "This lack of access hurts kids in the here and now, and compounds future health problems and costs."
Furthermore, this problem is set to get worse if no interventions are made, considering that nearly one in four dentists surveyed are planning to retire in the next five years, according to the report.
The Bangor Daily News reports that this study comes at a time when there is a growing legislative debate regarding the role of dental health professionals. For example, some people are calling for dental hygienists to be allowed to practice without a dentist present - something that many others have spoken out against.
WebMD states that a report conducted in 2011 by the Institutes of Medicine found that 33 million Americans live in areas that are underserved by dental health professionals. It's important for there to be enough dentists to serve all of the people in any area, regardless of whether it is urban, suburban or rural. Without regular dental check-ups, people have an increased risk of experiencing tooth decay and gum disease.
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