Southwest Virginia is a rural, low-income region of Virginia with poor oral health outcomes. One approach
that policymakers have offered to improve outcomes is opening a dental school
in the region. We assess how a new dental school could affect the availability
of dentists, utilization levels of dental services, and quality of care. Both
demand and supply of oral health services will influence the ultimate effect of
a dental school on oral health in the region. Taking into account both supply
and demand among different groups, we evaluate the likelihood of dental
graduates remaining in the region and the expected contribution of dental
school clinical services in treating low-income residents. We conclude by considering
potential problems with establishing a school and alternative policies, including
variants of the dental school model and greater use of auxiliary dental
providers. The results are expected to inform policymakers about various
cost-effective options for training dentists and improving oral health in Southwest
Virginia, as well as other rural regions around the country.

Publication Date
Publication type
Working Papers
Staff Authors
Terance J. Rephann
William M. Shobe
Tanya Wanchek