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Informing Policy. Advancing Health.

Oral Health Workforce in Colorado: Synthesis of Survey Findings and Implications for Policy

A summary of findings from three CHI oral health workforce surveys from 2006-2008 with regard to training, recruitment and retention of the oral health workforce.
Date last upated: July 1, 2009

This report, prepared under contract with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, summarizes findings from three CHI oral health workforce surveys from 2006-2008. The report summarizes findings in the context of relevant research and policy issues related to the training, recruitment and retention of the oral health workforce and related access issues specific to underserved populations.

In 2000, Colorado ranked sixth highest in the country for dentists per capita, with a dentist-to-population ratio of 70 per 100,000. In 2009, there are 18 entire counties and two partial counties in Colorado that are designated as geographic HPSAs, with another 18 designated as low-income dental HPSAs. Additionally, nine counties do not have an active licensed dentist and 13 lack a dental hygienist. In addition, Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) licensure data reveal that of all Colorado counties, 10 have only one licensed dentist and three have only a single dental hygienist.

Six local public health departments and public nursing services provided oral health care services in 2005. For the 2007-08 school year, eight school-based health centers (SBHCs) reported providing 2,238 dental visits. Services included dental screenings/diagnostics and preventive care such as sealants, fluoride applications and cleaning. In addition, Colorado’s oral health safety net includes both stand-alone dental clinics and those that are operated by an existing community health center or other community-based clinic.

While dental sealants are a proven method for preventing tooth decay in children, only 37 percent of 3rd graders in Colorado had dental sealants applied in 2007. The percentage of Colorado children with untreated tooth decay was greatest in geographic areas with the highest concentration of low-income residents. The Colorado Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) program offers a dental benefit to children, but the benefit is capped at $600 annually.