Workforce Study

The Georgia Dental Association (GDA) has long contended that there is no shortage of dentists or dental hygienists in Georgia. Now, a workforce census conducted by the Georgia Health Policy Center and Market Decisions Inc. supports assertions that Georgia does not have a dental supply issue. In fact only 19 out of 4,044 dentists practicing in Georgia cannot accept new patients. Armed with this census information, the GDA can continue to move forward with programs and initiatives addressing the numerous reasons Georgians choose not to access dental care.

Among the findings, the study ("A Study of Georgia's Dental Workforce 2012") reported that:

  1. The vast majority of dentists (3,312) reported that while their practices are busy, they are still accepting new patients;
  2. 309 dentists reported the need for more patients, and 31 dentists reported their practices were struggling;
  3. Only 19 private dentists reported that their practices are full and cannot accept new patients;
  4. 43 percent of public health clinics reported that they are not busy because patients schedule but fail to show up for treatment;
  5. Patients of record in Georgia can get an appointment in 5.4 days, and a new patient can get an appointment in 6.1 days; patients can be seen almost immediately for emergencies;
  6. 104 dentists not currently providing Medicaid services are willing to do so if the Care Management Organizations (CMOs) would credential them.; this would add 12 percent to the Medicaid provider network;
  7. In counties without a dentist, no patient has to drive more than 22.9 miles, or 35 minutes, to see a dentist;
  8. 15 Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) offer dental services; four of these see patients with no wait;
  9. Two-thirds of locum tenens dentists report they could work more days per week.


“Is there a dentist shortage in Georgia? The GDA believes this census demonstrates there is not a shortage of dentists who can provide care,” said GDA President Dr. Sidney Tourial. “The word shortage suggests there is more demand for dental care than an available supply. But the census data shows otherwise. If 43 percent of our public health districts report that they aren’t busy because patients don’t show up for appointments and only 19 private practice dentists cannot take new patients, it appears that there is not a lack of dentists in Georgia. There is a lack of demand.”

In 2010, the GDA published a White Paper,Georgia’s Oral Health Status, Access to and Utilization of Oral Health Care Services.”  Research in this document clearly demonstrates that there are myriad reasons for patients not accessing dental care: oral health literacy, economic constraints, transportation, lack of an adequate safety net, under-funded government programs, and workforce, to name a few. Since the GDA has ongoing programs and initiatives to address many of these barriers, the missing data component was an accurate count of the number of actively practicing dentists in Georgia.

The GDA is aware that the Georgia Board of Dentistry has active licenses for many more dentists and dental hygienists than actually practice in Georgia. Dentists retire and maintain an active license. Dentists move out of state but maintain a Georgia license for various reasons. With this Workforce Census, we now know that there are 4,044 actively practicing dentists in Georgia and of these, only 19 cannot see new patients.

Census questions were designed to capture data on more than just the number of actively practicing dentists in Georgia. Practice locations, participation in Medicaid, public health and Federally Qualified Health Center clinic data, and patient care statistics at the College of Dental Medicine were also gathered. Armed with the data from the Workforce Study, the GDA can continue to develop strategies for improving access to dental care.

The GDA in conjunction with the American Dental Association (ADA) sponsor several programs that address access to care barriers:

Georgia Dental Association Patient Education and Direct Care Dental Programs

Georgia Mission of Mercy (GMOM): Our first two GMOM care events in 2011 and 2013 provided more than 21,600 free dental services to over 3,330 Georgians in need. The total value of this donated care is more than $3.3 million!

Nursing Home Staff Training: The Georgia Dental Association conducts programs for the care staff at nursing homes so that staff can assist in caring for the residents’ oral health. The GDA maintains a list of member dentists who are available to conduct the in-service training. Our goal is to conduct training at all of the 400+ nursing homes in Georgia.  

Give Kids A Smile Day: On the first Friday in February each year, GDA member dentists provide free dental care to Georgia’s less fortunate children. In 2014, based on statistics reported to the American Dental Association, GDA volunteer dentists donated care and services valued at over $100,000.

Kids’ Healthy Mouths: The GDA promotes this national this public service campaign designed to teach parents, caregivers and children about the importance of oral health. The website, www.2min2x.org, contains videos, educational activities, and other information for kids and caregivers.

Special Olympics, Special Smiles: GDA dentists who devote time each summer to provide dental screenings to special athletes participating the Georgia Summer Games. In 2014, 31 GDA dentists cared for 250 athletes.

TeamSmile: The GDA, TeamSmile, and the Atlanta Falcons teamed up for a children’s dental outreach event at an Atlanta City School in 2014. Hundreds of students received free dental services, including dental education and screening, hygiene and/or restorative services. Thanks to the 13 Georgia Dental Association member dentists who volunteered to provide care.