Narrator: This is Science Today. There are about 150 thousand clinically active dentists in this country and although the number of dentists has been on the rise over the last two decades, a recent University of California, San Francisco study has found a decreasing dentist-to-population ratio. Researcher Elizabeth Mertz says that's because there's a whole segment of the population who do not have access to oral health care.
Mertz: The public financing for care is extremely low, there's very little dental care available within the medical safety net - there really is no dental safety net - and so these people are simply going without or they're showing up in emergency rooms.
Narrator: The study recommends providing alternatives to the existing model of care including integrating oral health and primary health care.
Mertz: So looking at ways to have medical professionals and dental professionals refer back and forth to each other and work more as partners to maintain oral health of their patients and of the populations that they serve, rather than seeing them as two separate, totally distinct systems of care.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.