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Dentists are measured as the ratio of the county population to total dentists in the county.
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 living in them.
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.
The Area Health Resource File is a collection of data from more than 50 sources, including: American Medical Association, American Hospital Association, US Census Bureau, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the National Center for Health Statistics.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services maintains the National Provider Identification file. This file contains information on every healthcare provider with a Provider ID number. Any provider who electronically transmits health information in connection with a HIPAA standard transaction is required to have a Provider ID.
It is difficult to stratify this measure by population demographics or locale.
 Health Resources and Services Administration. Shortage Designation: Health Professional Shortage Areas & Medically Underserved Areas/Populations. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2012.
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