We are so lucky to have the UMKC Dental School in Kansas City. Each year the dental school graduates 100 new dentists. 72 of these dental students are residents of Missouri and 20 are from Kansas. The remaining slots are from other states. In a good year Missouri and Kansas retains approximately 70% of their graduates who actually set up practice in their home state. That is the good news!
The bad news is that more dentists are retiring than new dentists are graduating from school. The net effect is that in the next 10 years we will have much fewer dentists practicing than we do now. For those of us who care about the oral health needs of the poor, we currently are experiencing a drastic shortage of dentists who will care for the uninsured or those on Medicaid. This situation will only get worse unless we take action.
Since the UMKC Dental School turns away hundreds of qualified student applicants each year, the obvious question is why doesn’t UMKC train and graduate more dentists? As is usually the case it always comes back to money. It would cost the university money they claim they don’t have to build more labs and classrooms to train additional students. In addition, many current dentists with financial and political clout are not keen on the idea of having more dentists in the marketplace competing for their clients and potentially reducing their take home pay.
The new UMKC Dental School Dean will have his or her hands full trying to find a workable solution to this situation …it’s a opportunity that can and must be addressed soon.
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