A dental office with limited staffing is facing the possibility of closure due to budget cuts in Florida, as the state faces the largest population of chronic dental care-seeking adults in the nation.
In a statement to The Associated Press, the state Department of Health Services said its dental office in the Port Orange neighborhood of South Tampa, which is just west of Daytona Beach, has been forced to turn away a large number of patients due to a lack of staff to help with their care.
The department said it was working to provide dental care to as many people as possible.
The statement did not provide further details.
The department has said it will make changes in its operations as part of its efforts to address the budget crunch.
It did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Dental offices in South Florida are typically staffed by nurses and other dental personnel, but that practice is in jeopardy as the population of people seeking dental care increases and more people enter the workforce, said Dr. David Hodge, a clinical associate professor of pediatrics at the University of South Florida.
Dentists say the shortage is particularly severe in the state’s cities.
The state, which has more than 3 million residents, has the highest rate of tooth decay among states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
More than 1.3 million children in Florida were underweight in 2015, according a report released last month by the Florida Department of Children and Families.
Hodge said he had seen this firsthand when he worked as a dentist in Fort Lauderdale and Miami.
The state is dealing with a sharp increase in dental caries, a condition that can cause decay of teeth and gums, and has experienced a significant decline in the number of dental offices in recent years.
Hoyle said that if the state continues to rely on such clinics, the dental industry will lose jobs and patients.
He said he is not optimistic the state can continue to meet the needs of its growing population of patients.
“If the budget cuts continue and dental clinics are not able to provide care to its growing number of people, that is going to result in dentists being laid off and dental employees losing their jobs,” he said.