'We are facing a real significant crisis ': 7 notes on Alabama's shrinking dental care

Access to dental care in Alabama is diminishing as dentists become more concentrated in urban areas and those over the age of 60 near retirement, WBRC reported Dec. 1.

Seven things to know:

1. According to the CDC, nearly half of Alabama counties have fewer than 10 dentists, and others have none.

2. More than 80 percent of the state's dentists practice in the state's 13 urban counties, but 40 percent of the state's population live in rural communities, according to Stephen Mitchell, DMD, director of the Civitan-Sparks Clinics at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.

3. A third of dentists in the state are over the age of 60.

4. Most dentists over 60 practice in the state's rural communities, which means dental care access in those areas could worsen as those dentists retire.

5. Richard Simpson, DMD, told the news outlet that few dentists are incentivized to practice in rural communities because of the large student debt they have upon graduation, leading them toward urban areas with higher reimbursement rates.

6. Rural patients often struggle to access dental care because they have less access to private insurance, and dental practices accepting government-funded insurance are unable to help many patients because of the low reimbursement rates.

7. Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Simpson are advocating for ways to improve dental care in the state, including encouraging more employers to offer private insurance and calling for the expansion of Medicaid in Alabama.

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