Beyond Benefits: Helping Ensure a Strong Wisconsin Dental Workforce
Access to dental care for low-income individuals in rural Wisconsin is getting a needed boost through the Delta Dental of Wisconsin Fellowship program with Marquette University School of Dentistry.
Rural areas face unique challenges when it comes to delivering health and dental care. There are half as many dentists per 100,000 people in rural areas compared to urban areas, according to the Rural Assistance Center. And less than 40% of the rural population has private dental insurance. In fact, rural residents are more likely than urban dwellers to report that their last dental visit was because something was “bothering or hurting” rather than for preventive care.
As part of our mission, Delta Dental of Wisconsin’s Charitable Fund provides grants and scholarships to dental and dental hygiene students to improve access to care and develop the oral health workforce in Wisconsin. One important workforce grant is the Delta Dental of Wisconsin Fellowship for graduates of the Marquette University School of Dentistry. Delta Dental’s Charitable Fund provides funding for two fellows each year.
Because many rural dentists don’t have the option of referring patients to specialty providers, they need extra training and additional capabilities in order to perform many procedures. The Delta Dental-funded fellowship provides that extended training.
Two community-based clinics, Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire and Tri-County Community Dental Clinic in Appleton, benefit from the program. Each clinic is matched with a fellow who, for one year, provides care to more than 500 low-income patients. The program reduces waiting lists in those two communities, and provides the young graduates with extensive experience.
The partnership is a win-win. Marquette University School of Dentistry leaders note the program helps achieve its goals: to expand access to oral health care for underserved populations, increase the number of dental school graduates familiar with the needs of rural populations, and emphasize the importance of public health dentistry. For Delta Dental, trained dentists help extend access to care while helping ensure future network dentists in rural areas around the state.
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