African American Dentist Blog Discussion of Issues and Concerns

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“We need more Black dentists,” said Dr. Jeanne Sinkford, associate executive director of the American Dental Education Association. “Dental schools are only graduating 300 Black dentists out of 5,000 each year.”

Dr. Sinkford delivered remarks at the Howard University Symposium on United States Health Care on April 10.

“There are only sixty-five dental schools, and they are a safety net for communities without access to dental care.  Most patients we see in dental schools come from underserved communities, but some states don’t have dental schools,” she explained.

“We must understand the importance of Howard University Dental School and Meharry Dental School.  Thirty-one percent of African American dentists come from Howard and Meharry. Black dentists treat 61.8 percent of Black patients, White dentists only treat 10.5 percent, Hispanics treat 9.8 and Asian dentists only treat 11.5 percent.”

The Great Need for More Blacks in Dentistry

The need for more Black people in health professions has reached critical levels.  Four new medical schools opened in 2009 in response to the call for an expanded physician workforce. 

But “of the four new medical schools that opened only four African American students were admitted,” said Dr. Marc Nivet of the Association of American Medical Colleges.  “These are urgent issues that we face. We must hold institutions accountable for finding the talent available.”

The challenge to recruit dental students is even more critical.  Studies show that 50 million Americans live in areas where they can’t easily visit a dentist.

“We now have an opportunity (with the Affordable Care Act ACA) to improve access to dental health services,” said former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher at a conference last year. “But how do we put in place a health care system that meets the needs of all? Can we, in fact, increase the supply of oral health care providers by expanding the opportunity for people to serve? What the ACA said is that people should be able to practice to the full extent of their potential.”

A Black Girl's Journey to Dental School

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