Identifying Communities with Low Dentist Supply in California
OBJECTIVES: This study estimates the supply and geographic distribution of dentists in California and examines the community characteristics associated with supply of dentists.
METHODS: The number of practicing dentists was estimated from American Dental Association data on licensed dentists in California. Each dentist's address was geocoded and matched to a Medical Service Study Area (MSSA). Dentist-to-population ratios were computed, and the association between dentist supply and community characteristics was analyzed in regression models.
RESULTS: Approximately 20 percent of California communities may have a shortage of dentists. Two-thirds of dental shortage communities are rural. Communities with a lower supply of dentists have higher percentages of minorities, children, and low-income persons. Minority dentists were more likely to practice in minority communities.
CONCLUSIONS: Geographic maldistribution of dentists may contribute to poor access to dental care in many communities, especially in rural, low-income, and minority communities. Minority dentists are more likely to practice in minority communities, but are a small portion of the dental workforce.