Strong teeth and gums are important factors that contribute to our everyday health. But as the Affordable Care Act  (ACA) opens up dental care for millions, health care experts are expressing concern that there aren’t enough African-American dentists to serve black patients, according to remarks made at Howard University’s Symposium on United States Health Care and reported by the Final Call.

Currently, black dentists treat about 62 percent of all African-American patients. But dental schools are only graduating 300 African-American dentists out of 5,000 total each year, according to Jeanne Sinkford, MD, the associate executive director of the American Dental Education Association.

Often, free services provided by dental schools act as a safety net for those without access to dental care, and under the ACA, more than 5 million children will be newly entitled to free visits to the dentist. But dental care providers are desperately needed to accommodate the expansion.

“There are only 65 dental schools, and they are a safety net for communities without access to dental care,” Sinkford said. “Most patients we see in dental schools come from underserved communities, but some states don’t have dental schools.”

In response to the call for an expanded physician workforce, four new medical schools have opened since 2009. But researchers say only four African Americans have been admitted to these schools. Therefore, the top priority now for many working in the education field is to urge institutions to aggressively recruit talented and diverse dental students.

Statistics show that black kids receive worse care than other minorities when seeing their dentists. Click here to read more.

To read the Final Call story, click here.