The ADA is applauding U.S. Senators Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss., for reintroducing the Dental Loan Repayment Assistance Act (S 2172), which would, if passed, help increase the number of dental and dental hygiene faculty in the workforce through loan repayment.
“Dental schools are having a difficult time recruiting quality faculty, especially for pediatric and public health specialties,” said George R. Shepley, D.D.S., ADA president, in a news release issued by Sen. Cardin. “The Dental Loan Repayment Assistance Act will allow dental schools to recruit and retain full-time dental educators by alleviating the tax burden of the loan repayment benefits. We greatly appreciate the support of Senators Cardin and Wicker for recognizing the positive impact this will have on the future of the dental workforce in our country.”
The Dental Loan Repayment Assistance Act would help allow faculty members to stay where they are needed most by eliminating certain loan assistance benefits from counting as taxable income.
Sen. Cardin said that oral health is integral to overall health and well-being, and that “crippling” educational debt, coupled with the pandemic, has created a shortage of oral health care providers across the nation.
According to the release, there are nearly 7,500 dental health professional shortage areas nationwide. Nearly 70 million Americans live in dental health professional shortage areas, with more than 11,000 practitioners needed to eliminate these shortage areas.
“Too many Americans already lack access to quality dental care,” Sen. Cardin said. “The Dental Loan Repayment Assistance Act will strengthen recruitment and retention efforts for the next generation of dentists and dental hygiene faculty, so we have the oral health workforce to ensure that every American has access to a dentist when they need one.”
Sen. Wicker said communities across the country continue to face unique challenges in recruiting and retaining dentists and dental faculty, drastically affecting access to dental care in underserved areas.
“Attracting more faculty to train a new generation of dental students is essential to addressing national shortages of dentists,” he said. "Communities across the country continue to face unique challenges in recruiting and retaining dentists and dental faculty, drastically impacting access to dental care in underserved areas. Attracting more faculty to train a new generation of dental students is essential to addressing national shortages of dentists.”
Along with the ADA, the Dental Loan Repayment Assistance Act is supported by the Academy of General Dentistry, American Academy of Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology, American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology, American Academy of Pediatric Dentists, American Academy of Periodontology, American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, American Association of Orthodontists, American Society of Dentist Anesthesiologists, American Student Dental Association and Hispanic Dental Association.
“The Dental Faculty Loan Repayment Program was created to address the significant difficulties in recruiting qualified individuals to fill faculty positions, especially acute in pediatric dentistry,” said Scott W. Cashion, D.D.S., president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and pediatric dentistry residency program director at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Adams School of Dentistry. “Pediatric dentists face staggering student loan debt [of] over $300,000, often prohibiting them from entering into or remaining in a career as dental school faculty. We must do more to support the pediatric dental workforce, and that means working to ensure more dentists choose to become pediatric dental school faculty. By alleviating taxation of loan repayments to the individual, this legislation will make the Dental Faculty Loan Repayment Program even more effective in recruiting and retaining pediatric dental faculty.”
Follow the ADA’s advocacy efforts at ADA.org/advocacy.