A new report finds that Louisiana has the second worst dentist shortage in the nation. Because of this, many residents are not getting adequate dental care, especially children and people who live in rural areas.
The Pew Charitable Trusts examined the lack of access to dental care nationwide. The findings revealed a scarcity of dentists who participate in Medicaid. In Louisiana, the report comes as the state Department of Health and Hospitals is slashing reimbursement rates paid to dentists through the Medicaid program with the July 1 start of the new fiscal year.
Shelly Gehshan, director of the Pew Children’s Dental Campaign, said the shortage is hurting Louisiana’s low-income children the most.
"Louisiana is in trouble," Gehshan said in a phone interview. “Less than half of all children enrolled in Medicaid received the dental visit in 2011, which is very low. And, even more scary, 41.5 percent of dentists are over age 55.”
Gehshan said there are not enough new dentists entering the workforce in Louisiana to replace those who retire. The report, "In Search of Dental Care," found that Mississippi had the worst shortage of all.
Pew said more than 24 percent of Louisiana's population is underserved by dentists and living in a dental shortage area.