The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences will soon offer postgraduate programs for dentists in advanced general dentistry and oral surgery.
The UAMS Center for Dental Education will also include an oral health clinic, which will start accepting patients next year.
In the 2008 report to the state House and Senate Interim Committees on Public Health, Welfare and Labor, Arkansas had 1,331 licensed dentists and ranked 50th in the nation for the ratio of dentists per 100,000 population.
More than half of the dentists in the state are age 50 or older, meaning that within the next 10 years, half of the existing dental workforce will reach or be nearing retirement age.
Arkansas is one of only three states in the nation with a population of more than 2.5 million that does not have a college of dentistry.
The Center for Dental Education and its residency program could serve as a foundation for an eventual dental college at UAMS.
In a 2003 study of more than 7,000 third-grade students in public schools, more than 60 percent had evidence of current or past cavities and 31 percent had untreated cavities.
A 2011 study from the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that children who lack dental care miss more school days, use more expensive emergency room services for care and face worse job prospects than those who do receive regular dental care.