Dental needs prevalent in North Country

To the editor:The New Hampshire Business Review’s excellent article, “Does N.H. face a pending dental shortage?” (Nov. 5-18 NHBR) captured not only the challenges of oral health care, but also how diverse the needs are from one region to another.I’m afraid though that one sentence left the impression that Coos County has an oversaturation of dentists. I assume that the writer simply and inadvertently transposed the numbers. The article states that Coos County has 6.6 dentists per 10,000 residents, whereas according to the New Hampshire Center for Policy Studies’ Dental Service Workforce in New Hampshire report, Coos has 3.8 per 10,000.The northernmost county has the least coverage of dentists per resident, and the state’s highest rate of residents without dental coverage – nearly twice as high as the rates in Hillsborough and Rockingham counties.Beyond having few dentists and many people without access to affordable dental care, Coos County and northern Grafton County have a persistent culture of oral neglect and an assumption that teeth eventually wear out. Remarkably, even among children, who have access to dental care through the state’s Healthy Kids Gold program, many have never gone to a dentist.Several years ago, the North Country Health Consortium started a program called the Molar Express, with the aim of providing dental care to low- and moderate-income people who have trouble accessing dental care through a mobile dental office. More than 5,500 people have been served at community clinics around the region since the program began.In 2010, the Molar Express held 165 oral health clinics at area schools, nursing homes and community sites, providing cleanings, exams, fluoride treatments, sealants, restorative care and extractions.An important focus of the Molar Express staff is educating people about the overall link between dental care and chronic disease. Dental care is not frivolous or cosmetic. The health of the mouth and teeth are a vital part of a person’s overall physical health, as well as their self-esteem and confidence.Thank you for bringing this important issue to your reader’s attention.Martha McLeod
Executive Director
North Country Health Consortium
Reporter’s Rebuttal: According to a study by the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, there were 6.3 licensed dentists per 10,000 residents in Coos County as of Sept. 10, 2009, based on figures from the state Board of Dental Examiners, as reflected in the NHBR article. There were 3.8 dentists in Coos County per 10,000 population in 2007, according to a chart showing change over time.

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