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Informing Policy. Advancing Health.

The Practice of Dentistry in Colorado: Are There Differences Between Urban and Rural Practicing Dentists?

An examination of the characteristics of Colorado’s dentists, including their practice patterns and perspectives on access, essential to determining whether the oral health needs of Coloradans currently are being met and likely to be met in the future.
Date last upated: May 1, 2010

This report, based on a workforce survey by CHI of dentists practicing in urban areas of the state, found that Colorado has more dentists per capita than the national average. In January 2010, approximately 3,554 dentists were actively licensed in Colorado or about 6.9 dentists per 10,000 Coloradans. This number is 47 percent higher than the national average of 4.7 dentists per 10,000 persons. But indicators suggest that dentists are not distributed around the state in proportion to the population, especially when comparing urban and rural areas.

Comparing the 2009 Colorado urban dentist and the 2008 Colorado rural dentist workforce surveys reveals a number of similarities and differences between urban and rural practicing dentists. Although the average age of urban and rural dentists was similar, rural dentists were slightly older. Most urban dentists grew up in urban or suburban areas while most rural dentists grew up in a rural area.

Only 20 percent of both groups accepted Medicaid payment, but a greater proportion of rural than urban dentists accepted CHP+. Finally, while the same proportion of dentists from each setting reported planning to leave their practice in the 12 months following each survey, a greater proportion of departing rural dentists listed retirement as an important reason for leaving.