Florida leads the nation in the number of individuals, nearly 6 million, who are living in Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas.
Sixty-six of Florida’s 67 counties lack the amount of professionals needed to provide care, according to U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration data. Advocates say the shortage is of crisis proportions leading to significant impacts on general health as they say poor oral health is linked to impaired school learning, heart disease and even death.
Dr. Frank Catalanotto, founder of Floridians for Dental Access, said part of the problem is the significant cost of dental care. He noted in Florida and nationally, thousands of people with toothaches take their problems to an emergency room.
“The physicians in the emergency rooms aren’t prepared to deal with this, so the patient gets antibiotics and pain medication and then told to see a dentist tomorrow,” Catalanotto pointed out. “Well, if they couldn’t afford a dentist today, they are not going to afford one tomorrow.”