Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Lack of dentists an issue in Va. governor's race; primary being held today

The shortage of doctors in rural areas has been well documented, but Michael Laris reports for The Washington Post that the increasing lack of dentists, especially in rural towns, is among the issues that have been debated by Democratic candidates for governor of Virginia, who are on the primary ballot today.

All three governor candidates have promised progress, but Laris writes that “The candidates are less clear, though, on the projected price tag, and exactly where they would find the money” to implement programs that address the disparity.

Good oral hygiene and dental care have been empirically linked with overall physical health, but programs dedicated to bringing more dentists to rural areas have been downsized due to budget cuts and a shrinking number of public health dentists. Limited access to dental care means many people live with rotten teeth and infected gums that only worsen with time -- problems that typically end in tooth extraction. "Understand, there's nothing quite like that kind of pain,” Terry D. Dickinson, a dentist who is executive director of the Virginia Dental Association, told Laris. “These folks come in and are very stoic and don't complain. Just seeing them, it breaks your heart that they had to put up with that kind of problem." (Read more)

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