Federal Funding to Improve Oral Health Announced for Arkansas

(LITTLE ROCK) — The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) Office of Oral Health has been awarded a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to increase the oral health workforce in Arkansas. The HRSA Bureau of Health Professions will provide $225,000 a year for three years through an Oral Health Workforce Development Grant. The grant will be used to attract new dentists and hygienists, and to teach high school and middle school students in rural areas about dental careers.

“This grant will address some very critical issues in our state,” says Dr. Lynn Douglas Mouden, Director of the ADH Office of Oral Health. “We need to be able to attract new dentists and dental professionals to Arkansas, and to find ways to provide essential dental services to the Arkansans who need it most.”

A legislative interim study completed last year, titled “The Need for Dental Education in Arkansas,” revealed that Arkansas has a vast unmet need for dental healthcare.  Lack of a dental school in the state, an ever-growing population and a worsening dentist-to-population ratio are already creating shortages of dental professionals in many areas of the state.

New graduates from dental schools face an average debt of more than $150,000 from their education.  Under terms of the grant, dentists new to Arkansas can qualify for $10,000 grants-in-aid if they contract to practice in specific underserved areas for at least two years.

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff will receive funding to encourage minority students to consider dental careers. Working through the Farm Bureau of Arkansas’ Medical Applications for Science and Health (MASH) program, high school and middle school students in rural areas will also learn about dental careers.

Students at the new Mountain Home satellite campus for the UAMS Dental Hygiene Program can receive stipends of $2,000 a year, which will help establish that new program.

When the new pediatric dentistry residency program is established at Arkansas Children’s
Hospital, those dental residents can also qualify for an annual stipend to help offset the costs of education. In addition, a $100,000 matching sub-grant will help UAMS form the new Center for Dental Education.

Improving oral health in Arkansas is one of four strategic priorities for ADH. The others are strengthening injury prevention and control, reducing infant mortality and increasing physical activity.

For more information on oral health in Arkansas, visit http://www.healthyarkansas.com/Oral_Health