Now, thanks to two five-year grants totaling $3.5 million, the UNMC College of Dentistry will try to close this gap by sending more senior dental students and pediatric residents to communities across Nebraska.
"We have 20 counties in Nebraska out of 93 that have no dentist whatsoever, and 30 others where there are only one or two dentists," said Kimberly McFarland, D.D.S., professor in the UNMC College of Dentistry and the principal investigator on the grants. "This creates huge gaps in the dental workforce in the state."
With the grants from the Health Resources Services Administration, the UNMC College of Dentistry would like to ensure that every Nebraskan is no more than 90 miles from dental expertise.
The ultimate goal is that by the year 2015, each senior dental student and pediatric resident will spend up to 30 days on rotation in a rural clinic providing services, Dr. McFarland said.
A key component of one of the grants is designed to promote the use of the statewide tele-health network in Nebraska by equipping senior dental students with intraoral cameras and laptop computers to take with them on rural rotations. The students will then be required to do at least one or more consultations with specialists at the College of Dentistry to become familiar with the technology.
In recent months, students have participated in rural rotations in clinics in:
- Burwell; and
- North Platte.