Almost 50 million rural Americans lack access to sufficient dental care.
As Mother Jones reports, in large swaths of the country it can be difficult to make a dental appointment even if you have private insurance. And for Americans who rely on Medicaid, it can be practically impossible to find dental care in small towns. Fewer than half of the dentists in the United States accept Medicaid, and many of those who do are in the cities.
Many dentists say the paperwork involved with Medicaid is cumbersome, and they insist the reimbursement rates are too low to make accepting Medicaid patients worth the trouble. This can get especially tricky in conservative states like Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma, which have refused to expand Medicaid reimbursements.
One answer may be dental therapists, which is sort of like a nurse practitioner for teeth. However, some dental professionals have been fighting to keep dental therapists taking their business.