Post-Halloween Check-up: Mapping Access to Dental Care

In the wake of Halloween, as the costumes go back in the closet and sugar rush dies down, many people are thinking ahead to exciting year-end events. While Thanksgiving or a trip you have planned during the holidays in December may come to mind first, after eating all that Halloween candy, many of us should also be thinking about our next trip to the dentist and dental care! (I know that is what I am thinking about as I bite into my third Snickers bar of the day…)

While making a dental appointment may seem routine for some, it can be tricky depending on whether you have dental insurance and where you live. Using the new Health Resources data on PolicyMap (from HRSA’s Area Health Resource File), you can get a picture of where the rate of dentists per capita is high and where it is very low. As seen in the map below, in many rural counties, such as in Alaska, there are actually no dentists. This New York Times article highlights one physician’s perspective on the dentist shortage and how he thinks the rest of the country should follow Alaska’s lead by investing in the training and placement of dental therapists to fill the void.