Partnership Looks to Improve Dentistry in Rural Kentucky

by Devin Katayama on September 8, 2011

Kentucky’s Appalachian region is getting help from universities to improve oral hygiene.

The Appalachia Rural Dental Education Partnership Plan was announced by Gov. Steve Beshear on Wednesday and it will pull resources from the universities of Kentucky, Pikeville and Morehead State.

The partnership will send UK students to the eastern schools for education and encourage them to start private business in the region, where one in two public school children have dental disease, said Sharon Turner, dean of UK’s College of Dentistry.

“We think that we can do some things to help and that it can be sustainable and that selecting people from those areas that are deeply tied to the geography to those areas with their families there can in fact make a good living in those areas,” Turner said.

Over the past few years, Beshear has announced programs and incentives for rural dentistry practices because eastern and western Kentucky have problems with oral hygiene.

The plan and curriculum is still being written, she said. If the plan is found feasible, UK could start sending eight students to each eastern university every year starting in 2013, but results won’t be seen until 20121 when the students would graduate, she said.

The project is being funded mostly from a $400,000 federal grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission, which has financed some of Beshear’s other rural and pediatric dentistry projects. The University of Kentucky will invest $127,293, $82,035 from Pike University and $47,873 from Morehead State University.

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