LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences on Monday announced an effort to create a dental residency program that it hopes will lead to an expansion of dental care in areas of the state with few dentists.
Arkansas doesn't have a dental school and UAMS says the state ranks 50th in the nation in the number of dentists available per 100,000 in population.
University officials said the program could serve as a starting point for establishment of the state's first dental school. The program could lead to dentists conducting residency training by treating patients at Health Education Centers across the state.
The medical school said its Dental Education Center will include an oral health clinic and postgraduate programs for dentists in advanced general dentistry and oral surgery.
The university named Dr. Charles O. Cranford as director of the center, which will be within the UAMS College of Health Professions. That division already includes a dental hygiene program. Dr. Keith David Stillwell, presently associate director of general practice residency at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, will direct the clinical program starting in September.
The oral health clinic will open initially with five treatment rooms. The clinic will add a dentist, who will treat patients with Stillwell when the oral health clinic opens.
The clinic is to start treating patients early next year at the UAMS campus in Little Rock.
The center is to work with the Arkansas State Dental Association to develop continuing education coursework for dentists already practicing in the state.
"We need more dentists in Arkansas and establishing a postgraduate residency program in the state will increase the number of dentists beginning their careers in the state," Cranford said.
He likened the postgraduate program to a medical residency in which physicians often stay in the area after completing work.
"Our overall goal is to try to get more dentists into underserved areas around the state," Cranford said.
UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn said adding new programs, such as the dental center, falls within the school's mission of improving health care in the state.
"Access to adequate dental care in Arkansas is a health care problem that has far-reaching effects on the health of Arkansans," Rahm said.
Stillwell will work to win accreditation for the program from the Commission on Dental Accreditation for a general practice residency at UAMS.
The university hopes to start accepting dental residents in 2014. The oral health clinic is expected to have expanded to 15 treatment rooms by then.
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