Rural dentists few and far between
In this long stretch of rural Bladen County, an area with more than 30,000 people, there are only six dental practices.
“It’s staggering; it’s a lack of providers per population,” said dentist Matthew Fell.
The US average is 6 dentists per 10,000 people; however, Bladen County is well below that.
Part of the problem is a lack of federal funding. Medicare doesn’t cover dental care and Medicaid reimburses well below what it costs to run a dental practice.
Elizabethtown is the hub of Bladen County, and believe it or not, there are only four dentists there. Dentists say once they graduate from dental school, they owe thousands of dollars and can’t afford to set up shop in rural communities.
Dr. Fell is avoiding that problem. He’s part of a loan forgiveness program, in which the government helps pay his school loans in exchange for his services in small, rural communities.
The cost to start a practice is about $400,000. So until dentists can come up with that money, practices in rural area will remain few and far between.
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