In its annual report of States with the Best and Worst Dental Health released January 31, WalletHub gave Virginia an overall ranking of 24th. Of the various metrics used to calculate the state rankings, Virginia came in the top or bottom five states in just one: ranking behind the District of Columbia with the most dentists per capita of any state.
The VDA reached out to WalletHub, which shared that they calculated the number of general dentists in each state using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) divided by the state population using the most recent U.S. Census data.
Using that same methodology but including BLS dental hygiene data, Virginia would have the second-lowest ratio of dental hygienists to dentists, behind only New Mexico.
The VDA Dental Workforce Council, using data from the Virginia Healthcare Workforce Data Center, has found significant regional disparities in the need specifically for dental hygienists, with a particularly acute imbalance of dentists and dental hygienists in Northern Virginia, Richmond and Henrico. The report also warned of a wave of expected retirements of dentists in rural areas of Virginia that could further impact access to care in those communities.
The council presented a series of policy recommendations to address these challenges to the VDA House of Delegates last month, and will continue working with Virginia policymakers, program directors and administrators to meet our urgent workforce needs and support and expand allied dental programs within Virginia.
Since the onset of the pandemic, half of dentists report that they have responded to staffing challenges by personally taking on duties previously assigned to other team members. When dentists can’t practice at the top of their license in Virginia, it means fewer Virginians have access to essential dental care.
Virginia is in an enviable position overall with regards to our population of dentists. The data WalletHub cites in creating their annual report shows that we have some significant challenges in allowing those dentists to meet the dental needs in our communities.
WalltHub's States with the Best and Worst Dental Health (2024)
Virginia Dental Workforce Council Report