NYSADC Calls on State to create new loan forgiveness program, reauthorize the Restricted Dental Faculty Licensure program and expand Doctors Across New York to include dentists

Lack of access to dental care leads to poorer health outcomes, increases health care costs

(New York, NY) – The New York State Academic Dental Centers (NYSADC), a nonprofit organization that represents the six dental schools located in the state, is calling on the state legislature to pass a series of bills and create a new program to address the shortage of dental school faculty.

“The shortage of dental faculty in New York State is negatively impacting the state’s ability to educate and train new dentists and compromising access to dental care,” said Jonathan Teyan, NYSADC Chief Operating Officer.  “This lack of access results in diminished health outcomes and drives unnecessary costs to the state’s healthcare system.”

Dental schools, in addition to training the next generations of dentists, also function as safety nets for individuals who can-not afford dental care elsewhere.  These schools also are the sole source for dental care for many patients with special and medically complex needs.

Currently, there are 66 unfilled dental faculty positions at the six schools across the state. A NYSADC survey of the dental schools found that schools can take as many as three years to fill a full professor vacancy. In a recent survey of exiting dental school graduates, only 0.5% said that they were interested in pursuing a career in academic dentistry.

Furthermore, there is an anticipated shortage of dentists in New York. By 2025, it is estimated the state will have 1,024 fewer full-time dentists than is needed to meet the state’s needs. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), New York is predicted to have one of the worst shortages of any state in the nation. This severe shortfall will have the largest effect on those who are already in underserved areas and for whom the need is greatest.

The vacancy rate and lack of interest in dental faculty positions is driven by:

  • Pay gap: A major cause of the shortage is the differential in salary between academic dentistry and private practice. A general practitioner dentist makes an average of $174,780 and a specialist makes $322,200, compared to an average of $93,667 for an academic dental school faculty member (FY2014 data).
  • Debt load: compounding the pay gap is the debt load.  The average indebtedness of U.S. dental school graduates has grown to nearly $250,000.

To address these factors and increase the number of dental faculty members, NYSADC is calling on the New York State Legislature to:

  • Pass legislation that would establish a loan forgiveness program for dentists serving on faculty at dental schools in New York State.

The program would consist of $40,000 in loan repayment or forgiveness for each year in which a New York State licensed dentist, who has accepted a full-time faculty or clinical adjunct faculty position, serves in a New York State dental school, with a minimum service commitment of two continuous years at the same dental school. Candidates may receive this award for up to four years. This bill has been previously introduced (A.7968 Hyndman/S.5801 LaValle)

  • Extend New York Education Law §6604-b, the New York State Restricted Dental Faculty Licensure Statute. This law allows highly-qualified, foreign-trained dental educators and researchers to teach at New York’s six academic dental centers and participate in faculty practice plans through the centers. At present, there are approximately 50 dental faculty members participating. This bill has been previously introduced (A.9915 Glick/S.7594 Golden).
  • Pass legislation that would expand eligibility for Doctors Across New York loan repayment and practice support to include dentists. This bill was reintroduced recently into the Senate by Senator Cathy Young (S.954) and has been previously introduced in the assembly as well (A.5279 Aubry).

NYSADC estimates the loan forgiveness program will cost $350,000 in the first year, and $995,000 when the program is fully subscribed in its fourth year.