On October 16, 2023, the AGD sent a letter to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) urging the agency to evaluate and revise the existing dental Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA) designation programs. Currently, HRSA designates a dentist shortage where the ratio of the population to providers is less than 3500 to one (or 3000 to one if there are unusually high needs in the community). The published number of HPSA designations may erroneously include HPSAs proposed for withdrawal and HPSAs lacking accurate data. HPSA designations, based on obsolete and/or incomplete data, have the potential to impact the dental workforce in the following ways:
- Misguided funding allocations;
- Practitioner specialization choices that may exacerbate shortages of either generalist or specialist numbers;
- Policy decisions affecting loan repayment, Medicaid reimbursement rates, immigration policies aimed at a potentially nonexistent dentist shortage; and,
- Incentive to open more dental schools - creating a market surplus whereby graduating dentists cannot find work.
Impact on General Dentistry: The U.S. dental workforce has experienced changes during the last several years. The existing supply of dentists today is sufficient to meet the demands of the U.S. market, with increased demands projected through 2040. In addition, the shortage of dental hygienists is impacting dental practices and the patients they serve in communities nationwide. HRSA's use of old and/or inaccurate data does not reflect the complexion of the current dental workforce.