Reason for Ranking
Untreated dental disease can lead to serious health effects including pain, infection, and tooth loss. Although lack of sufficient providers is only one barrier to accessing oral health care, much of the country suffers from shortages. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, as of December 2012, there were 4,585 Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs), with 45 million people total living in them.
Measurement Strengths and Limitations
Dentists are classified by county, but dentists living on the edge of counties or who practice in multiple locations may see patient populations that reside in surrounding counties. This data comes from the National Provider Identification data file, which has some limitations. Providers who transmit electronic health records are required to obtain an identification number, but very small providers may not obtain a number. While providers have the option of deactivating their identification number, some dentists included in this list may no longer be practicing or accepting new patients.