As the dean of the Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health in Mesa, Dr. Jack Dillenberg has spent the last 10 years turning out dentists who deal with more than just crowns, bridges and teeth cleaning.
“It’s not just about the tooth,” Dillenberg is fond of saying. “It’s about the person attached to the tooth, the family attached to the person and the community attached to the family. We want to produce leaders in the community and, along the way, teach them to be great doctors.”
But perhaps the most unusual thing about Dillenberg’s school is its main stated mission: to provide dental care for underserved areas. All 15 counties in the state, including Maricopa, have areas designated dental Health Professional Shortage Areas, or HPSAs, as designated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
That may sound surprising to East Valley residents accustomed to finding their mailboxes stuffed with flyers from new dentists in the area looking for business. Are we really facing a shortage of dentists here? Is Arizona heading into a statewide epidemic of bad teeth?
Not exactly, says Kevin Earle, executive director of the Arizona Dental Association.
“I disagree with the premise that there’s not enough dentists here,” he says. “As a matter of fact, data has just come out from the Health Policy Institute of the American Dental Association that says, even when adjusted for population, the supply of dentists in Arizona has increased in the last 10 years by 7.1 percent. We also have two dental schools here, including ASDOH,…
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