Rural Access and State Loan Repayment for Dentists

Lead researcher:
Project completed:
June 2005
Over the past five years, a number of states have turned to an idea that has been successful at the national level but little used by states, namely state loan repayment programs for dentists with a service requirement. However, little is known about these programs for dentists, in terms of their structure, size, requirements, and results. Findings from this study could be used by state offices of rural health and oral health to develop programs that are effective in increasing the supply of dentists in rural areas.

This project will identify and evaluate the effectiveness of these programs for dentists on improving access to rural health care. This study will establish baseline information about these programs that can be used by states to design and tailor similar programs for rural access. This study hypothesizes that state loan repayment programs for dentists are an effective strategy in improving access to dental care in rural areas. A study of all 50 states will determine the following:

  • The number of states which have state loan repayment programs for dentists.
  • The requirements of each program, and what do dentists receive in return.
  • The number of dentists currently practicing in rural areas with state loan repayment program support and what impact they are having on access.
  • The long-term results of these programs in terms of retention of program participants in rural areas.
  • How the costs of these programs compare with other strategies that have a similar target such as mobile vans.

This study will also give states bench-marks for comparison and information about the long-term effects and a questionnaire to use in tracking retention of loan repayment recipients. To guide the study, NCSL will convene periodically by telephone conference a small advisory panel of state rural oral health experts. The panel will include officials from a state office of rural health, oral health, and Medicaid dental program as well as a current or former rural dentist and representative of a state dental association. Panel members will be asked to review telephone interview questions, questions for participating dentists and provide expert commentary on research results.

There may be products related to this project; please contact the lead researcher for more information.