|Dr. Lynnel Beauchesne's clinic in Preston County, West Virginia,|
at lower right. (Photos by Ricky Carioti for The Washington Post)
"People don’t go to the dentist if they can’t afford to, no matter how many dentists there are," Kim writes, citing Richard Meckstroth, chair of the department of dental practice and rural health at West Virginia University. "Recruiting more providers into shortage areas can compound the problem, said Meckstroth, putting local dentists into tougher financial straits by increasing competition for a relatively small pool of paying patients. The dentists who arrive under loan forgiveness programs also tend to leave after their two-year obligation is up, what Meckstroth calls a 'revolving door' that deprives patients of continuity of care."
|Beauchesne and 15-month-old daughter, Landyn, in the office|
"Poor oral health has an impact beyond mere toothache," Kim reminds us. "A landmark 2000 report by the U.S. surgeon general found that oral health is intimately linked to people’s overall physical health and is often associated with serious systemic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, as well as the likelihood of complications in pregnancy. Nevertheless, some 74 million Americans had no dental coverage in 2016, according to the National Association of Dental Plans, putting the dentally uninsured rate at nearly four times the rate for the medically uninsured." A 2014 report from the American Dental Association said nearly 20 percent of adults under 65 "said they’d foregone needed dental care in the past 12 months, with the most common reason being “they couldn't afford it.”