Combating the Dental Workforce Shortage
The dental workforce shortage is one of the biggest barriers to care for our members and millions of people across the nation.
According to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), 54 million Americans live in areas that are medically underserved by dental health professionals. More than 10,600 practitioners are needed to fill this care gap.1
This is of particular concern to us because many of our most vulnerable members represent racial and ethnic groups most affected by oral health disparities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):2
- Non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics are among the racial and ethnic groups with the poorest oral health in the United States.
- Children in these groups are at greater risk for tooth decay, while adults in these groups are twice as likely to experience untreated tooth decay.
- The five-year survival rate for black men with oral cancer is just 36 percent, which is 25 percent lower than the survival rate for white men (61 percent).
In addition to partnering with providers and governments to combat the overall medical workforce shortage, we also continue to work to mitigate the impact specifically of the dental workforce shortage and to address our members' access to proper dental health care. We recognize the impact dental health has on physical health and overall well-being, and in many cases we collaborate with health care professionals to bring care directly to our members who live in areas that are medically underserved by dental health professionals.
Credentialing with Public Health Dental Hygiene Practitioners (PHDHPs)
PHDHPs are now recognized by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) as a provider type. Managed care organizations like our Pennsylvania-based health plans can now contract with and credential PHDHPs in Pennsylvania for direct reimbursement. This allows PHDHPs to deliver preventive dental services to members who live in rural areas where access to care would otherwise be limited.
Dental Navigation Program
In this program, a PHDHP meets members during primary care provider (PCP) or OB/GYN appointments. The PHDHP gathers information about each member's dental health and can refer the member to Integrated Care Management, schedule further care, and share oral health education materials.
In collaboration with Oral Health Impact Project (OHIP), our teledentistry program offers dental exams and preventive services to students at a Pennsylvania Head Start location. This program is not specific to AmeriHealth Caritas members, and students of any insurance status can receive dental care through the program.