BATON ROUGE – During its January meeting, the LSU Board of Supervisors approved a proposal to meet Louisiana’s need for dental services expansion in the northern and rural areas of the state.
“This is what LSU is all about,” said Chair of the LSU Board of Supervisors Robert Dampf. “This is LSU at its absolute best, and we’re just extraordinarily proud.”
The Board of Supervisors received a report that outlined the collaborative work between the LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans School of Dentistry and LSU Health Shreveport to expand dental services and limited specialty level-dental services in the northern part of the state initially, and then to other parts of the state as warranted and appropriate. LSU Health New Orleans and Shreveport believe the citizens of Louisiana need unrestricted access to Oral Health Services for public health, safety and wellness.
“I’m really proud of this work and I’m proud of it because it’s so essential, but I’m also proud of it because of the collaboration that went on between the two campuses and the dental school has been fabulous,” said Interim LSU President Tom Galligan. “It’s been a pleasure to work with everybody.”
The LSU Health New Orleans School of Dentistry and LSU Health School of Medicine-Shreveport expansion initiative, in partnership with Ochsner-LSU Health Shreveport, serves to increase general dental services and limited specialty-level dental services to the citizens of the various regions of Louisiana by providing safe, affordable and quality oral health services.
The plan is in response to ongoing concerns regarding the shortage of oral health services to citizens in the northern part of the state, as well as the need to ensure a greater dental workforce in rural and underserved areas. Approximately 87.5 percent of Louisiana is designated as a Dental Health Professional Shortage Area. The state suffers from the uneven distribution of oral healthcare workers with the greatest concentrations in larger metropolitan areas. Of the 64 Louisiana parishes, three currently have no dentist and 23 have one to five dentists with the highest concentrations in parishes of the northern and central portions of the state.
“This is really an opportunity to expand LSU’s footprint when it comes to oral health care services, particularly in the rural parishes, as well as in some of the underserved areas,” said LSU Health Shreveport Chancellor G.E. Ghali. “Setting up programs like this is going to be extremely beneficial to the overall oral healthcare and the systemic health of all of our patients and citizens in Louisiana.”
Oral Health is a window to an individual’s overall health. According to the Mayo Clinic problems that occur in a person’s mouth can affect the rest of the body. Like other areas of the body, the mouth teems with bacteria; while most of these bacteria are harmless, the mouth does serve as the entry point to both the digestive and respiratory tracts, and some of the bacteria can cause disease. Without proper oral hygiene and oral health care, bacteria can reach levels that could lead to infections in the mouth and throughout other parts of the body.
Poor oral health might contribute to various diseases and conditions, including but not limited to endocarditis, cardiovascular disease, and others. Starting young with good oral hygiene can definitely lead to greater wellness overall.
LSU is in the process of establishing General Practice Residency Programs for fifth year dental students who choose to participate and will include faculty supervision to be implemented within partner hospitals, regional medical centers, federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics.
LSU’s plan includes working with existing providers to take full advantage of opportunities to use existing dentists, clinical space, administrative and support staff to increase access to care.
“This aspect of getting more dental services in the north has been something we’ve been working on for two to three years now, and we are extremely pleased to see this plan move forward and to expand LSU’s dental services footprint,” said LSU Health New Orleans Chancellor Larry Hollier.
The plan, to be phased in over a several year period, will begin in July of 2021 with 6 new dental residents in Shreveport. The next step is to present the plan to the Louisiana Board of Regents for their review and support in the near future.