LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) There is a great need for increased dental health in Arkansas. It doesn't have a dental school.
"I think we have a pressing shortage here that would be alleviated by having our own college," says Dr. Charles Cranford at UAMS, which is trying to bring dental education to campus.
Arkansas ranks among the worst in the nation in the number of dentists per people.
"The average number of dentists per 100,000 is 60 and we have just a little over 40," says Dr. Cranford.
Cranford says having inter-state agreements with other dental schools helps bring some students back to Arkansas.
"We are laying a ground work now-a framework for the development for the programs that will be needed. We have a strategic plan that covers the next several years, 10 years to be exact," says Dr. Cranford.
Yet, without a full-time dental school here in Arkansas, they are losing more potential dentists every year.
"Arkansas, historically over a 10-year period, had about 35 new dentists coming into the state. That is only half as many new dentists we need over the next 10 years to maintain the number of dentists that we currently have," says Dr. Cranford.
Dr. Cranford says within the next decade, half of Arkansas' existing dental work force will be retired or near retirement age. And if the trend continues over the next decade, the state would lose 25 percent of its dentist work force.
"It does play a major factor I think. Just because you go out of state and then you, really your options are open from there," says Christopher Clark, a future dental student headed to Kansas City, Missouri.
"There's a lot of majors out there. But my dad's a dentist so I always grew up with an interest in dentistry. He kind of sparked the interest," says Clark.
Clark agrees that having a dental school in Arkansas will increase the ratio.