MYTH: Florida already has plenty of dentists.
FACT: 66 of Florida’s 67 counties have Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas.
According to ADA Health Policy Institute, in 2021 Florida had 53.57 dentists per 100,000 population compared to the national average of 60.84. The rates vary greatly across the state where Lafayette County has no license dentists, Glades, Hamilton and Union counties have just one license dentist, and Alachua, Broward and Palm Beach counties had rates significantly greater than the statewide rate.
Counting the overall number of licensed dentists in a state does nothing to assess provider adequacy. Two major problems factor into access problems: the geographic maldistribution of dentists and the few dentists who will accept Medicaid. First let’s consider the maldistribution problem.
Dentists, like many other health care professionals, tend to practice in urban or suburban areas, leaving large areas of the state with limited access to care. In Florida, roughly 1 in 4 residents – nearly SIX million — live in areas designated by the federal government as having a shortage of dentists. And 66 of 67 counties in Florida (94%) have a least one shortage area. These residents are forced to go without dental care, drive long distances to access dental care or seek care at the Emergency Room (ER). .
Now let’s consider the Medicaid dilemma. The American Dental Association reports that 35% of Florida dentists participate in Medicaid but only about half of these providers (17%) actually see any Medicaid patients. Furthermore, of the 17%, approximately 11% see 100 or more patients, meaning they likely have very long waitlists and are not taking new Medicaid patients. It’s not surprising that in 2019, only 41% of Medicaid-eligible children received any dental care, meaning that approximately 1,400,000 didn’t receive any dental care at all.