BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Biggio Dental Care located in the heart of Baton Rouge has kept up a steady stream of patients since it opened. Dr. Chad Biggio is an LSU grad, and decided to open his practice here after falling in love with the city. He's not the only one.
The metro area has around 500 dentists listed in the yellow pages. But look further out to more rural areas and that list drops tremendously.
"It's skewed towards the major cities where these major cities have a lot of dentists and a lot of access to care, and a lot of these smaller cities and smaller areas have poor access to care," said Biggio.
"Physicians can actually maintain in smaller communities a decent practice. Dentists can't. People see a physician more often than they would a dentist," added the Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert.
The distribution of dentists is one of the reasons a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts found Louisiana to be lacking in access to dental care. The other reason, has to do with the number of dentists who accept medicaid patients.
This study comes a week before the department of health and hospitals will cut Medicaid reimbursements by three percent for dentists.
According to DHH the cuts come as a part of the $20 million loss in general state funds. Kliebert says programs across the board are seeing reductions. However, the Secretary added that DHH tried to distribute the cuts in a way that would not greatly impact individuals.
"It hurts a lot. A lot of business that would normally would be able to accept some of these patients on the Medicaid program, now with all the cut backs it's making them think twice about it," said Biggio.
However, the state's rate of children with Medicaid receiving dental care has actually improved over the last few years. The Center for Medicaid and CHIP services credited Louisiana with improving its rates by about 20 percent, boosting to the total number of kids receiving primary care to about 42 percent according to DHH.
Even so, the Pew study says a national trend of dentist shortages could grow worse if it is not addressed by each state.