California Residents Facing a Severe Dentist Shortage

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Over 25 million people in this country are currently struggling with dentures. For those in California, finding a good dentist to help them alleviate their problems may be more of a challenge than they expect.

In the Golden State, the average ratio of dentist-to-patient in 2012 was 3.1 doctors for every 5,000 patients. Depending on where you look in California, that number could be as low as 2.4 (the San Joaquin Valley) or as high as 5.1 (the Bay Area).

For patients struggling with dentures, tooth loss, or really any dental ailment, there are already several hurdles they must overcome to receive quality care. Price is a standout, as many dental procedures are prohibitively expensive to pay out of pocket, yet also not covered by most insurance plans. The complexity of the treatment can often be off-putting. And now it seems dentist unavailability is looming as well.

And the news doesn’t seem to be getting better. Research shows that a quarter of all dentists who’ve practiced for over thirty years may be close to retiring.

Nadereh Pourat, director of research at the UCLA center, says, “Good access to dental care depends on having a robust supply of new dentists in California, and we need a new generation of dentists to replace the many dentists who are close to retirement.”

Rough economic times for California have not helped the situation, and may be driving licensed California dentists to choose to work outside the state. Figures show this demographic spiking six percent between 2008 and 2012.

Is there a solution to be had? UCLA posits there might be. Small business loans, dental school student loan repayment, and better Medi-Cal reimbursement rates could help retain more of the dentists California has, as well as attract a new generation to pick up the slack.

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