Delta Dental of Iowa, a non-profit provider of dental plans, has given the University of Iowa Dental School a 150-thousand dollar grant to help bring dentists to rural Iowa. Delta spokeswoman Suzanne Heckenlaible says the grant is funding an Iowa practice opportunities coordinator to help rural communities.
Heckenlaible says the dentists in Iowa are aging, with an average age between 54 and 55, and rural Iowa is facing a "crisis" in being able to replace their dentists. Heckenlaible says the coordinator is trying to bring together all the resources available to entice a dentist to the communities. She says they work closely with the communities to empower them to coordinate with the local hospital, or find land or other incentives to get dentists into the community. Heckenlaible cites a northwest Iowa community as an example.
Heckenlaible says 79 of Iowa’s 99 counties are considered dental shortage areas and 12 of those counties are considered critical shortage areas. She says many things are considered by the Department of Public in making the critical access designation, including transportation, income levels, the retirement age of the current dentist.
Heckenlaible says new dentists come out of school with large loans to pay off, and have worries about how they’ll start their practice, and they hope the new coordinator can help ease those concerns. Iowa communities interested in recruiting a dentist should contact the U-I College of Dentistry at 319-335-9865.