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Colorado is short on dentists

New patients, few dentists

New Patients, Few Dentists

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Hundreds of thousands of Coloradans are excited to get new dental care benefits next year because of the affordable care act.

But there's one problem. Colorado is short on dentists. Now the state is scrambling to find providers.

"We're open 12 hours a day, five days a week and six hours on Saturday. We try to make ourselves really available so we'll take on all that we can," said Dr. Travis Edwards with Comfort Dental.

More benefits for hundreds of thousands of patients.

"Too many patients for each provider to handle," said Edwards. "It's a sad thing that a lot of people aren't able to get some basic care that would really help them out, so I feel very positive about that move. I think they're taking it in the right direction and I think it's going to benefit a lot of people."

But that move is also creating an access problem.

Colorado has about 3,600 dentists. But only about a thousand of those provide Medicaid.

Over 300 thousand adults currently on Medicaid are already gaining dental care in the spring. That's not counting the tens of thousands of new patients enrolling under the Affordable Care Act.

"The biggest thing I'm expecting is that a lot of my existing patients that I've just been able to manage on an emergency basis are going to have some benefits that are going to allow them to get treatment they need before they have problems," says Edwards.

Fortunately there are a large amount of dentists in El Paso, Pueblo and Teller counties. But that's not the case for the whole state. Nine counties in Colorado have no dentists at all.

"It's sad that some of these areas don't have access to care. Not just that they don't have a dentist that doesn't accept Medicaid, but that they don't have a dentist at all. If the problem is that there aren't enough dentists to provide the care that's needed, I think that as a profession we'll find a way to try and manage that. I know a lot of people that have got to be excited about this becoming available for them," said Edwards.

The dentist crunch has prompted a new statewide campaign. The Colorado Dental Association is trying to get more dentists to treat the needy. It's asking each dentist in the state to accept at least five Medicaid patients or families in the coming year.

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