Missouri’s Oral Health Crisis
The lack of access to oral heathcare for everyone, especially for underinsured and vulnerable populations, is the primary cause of a growing oral health crisis in St. Louis and the state of Missouri. Of the children fortunate enough to qualify for assistance, 70 percent received no dental care in 2010. Shockingly, Missouri ranks 49th in the percentage of children aged 1-18 receiving any dental service, and 41st in the percentage of adults visiting a dentist each year.
Why are so few receiving care?
Several barriers exist but access to care is the biggest. Based on a March 2013 U.S. Department of Health & Human Services report of Missouri, a staggering 101 of Missouri’s 114 counties were designated dental health professional shortage areas. Simply put, Missouri has a significant shortage of dentists, and accessibility is worsening for all residents as evidenced by a disturbing trend in recent years showing 70 dentists leave full-time practice annually in Missouri with only approximately 45 new dentists replacing them. Finding an available dentist in your community can be difficult, and is nearly impossible for the underinsured and vulnerable population groups.
Based on a March 2013 U.S. Department of Health & Human Services report of Missouri, a staggering 101 of Missouri’s 114 counties were designated dental health professional shortage areas.
As Missouri’s largest metropolitan area, St. Louis is one of the most underserved urban environments and does not have a dental school to provide dental care to its diverse population. Thus, a growing oral healthcare disparity exists in Missouri with fewer available dentists overall and significantly worsening accessibility for all residents.
ATSU launches innovative Missouri School of Dentistry & Oral Health (MOSDOH)
Fortunately, for the underserved and vulnerable population groups in St. Louis and throughout the state of Missouri, relief is in sight. In 2013, ATSU launched the Missouri School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ATSU-MOSDOH).
ATSU-MOSDOH facts and purpose:
Innovative, community, and public health focused dental school
- Features strong recruitment, training, and placement ties to community health centers (CHCs) in urban and rural areas throughout the state of Missouri
- Serves underserved populations specifically in the metropolitan St. Louis region, statewide in Missouri, and beyond
- Aims to create long-term, sustainable improvements in access to care for Missouri’s oral healthcare safety net and increase the size of the available dental workforce
- First- and second-year dental student training on the Kirksville, Mo., campus
- Third- and partial fourth-year training at ATSU-MOSDOH’s St. Louis Dental Education and Oral Health Center
- Remainder of fourth-year training in various CHCs throughout the state
St. Louis Dental Education and Oral Health Center
Located at 1500 Park Avenue near Lafayette Square in St. Louis, the center boasts:
- Urgent care center
- Pediatric and special needs
- 92 operatories in a state-of-the-art, 79,000 square foot facility
- General and Specialty Dental Services (Preventive – cleanings; Periodontic – deep cleanings and surgery; Restorative – fillings, veneers; Prosthodontic – crowns, implants, bridges, dentures, and partials; Oral Surgery – extractions and complicated surgical procedures; Endodontics – root canal procedures; and limited orthodontic care.)
- Building toward impacting an estimated 9,398 new patients, resulting in more than 39,270 annual encounters with vulnerable children, adults, special needs patients, and others
- Majority of active patients will gain new (or significantly expanded) access to oral healthcare
- ATSU-MOSDOH students will obtain the variety and number of patient encounters needed for degree completion
- View the Fast Facts sheet regarding the center here
Missouri Smile Forward
Individuals, corporations and foundations may contribute to ATSU’s Missouri Smile Forward® program – an uncompensated care fund created to provide oral healthcare services for patients with little or no dental insurance benefits and who demonstrate financial need while providing teaching opportunities to ATSU students in a community health center setting. Allowing patients the option to keep their smile through funding assistance for dental restorative services is at the heart of the Missouri Smile Forward® program.