BLUE ASH, Ohio — Patients waiting for months to get a dentist appointment can blame one culprit: COVID-19. Although the delay earlier this year was to stop the spread of the disease, the delay now is due to a shortage of dental hygienists.
“I’m getting probably five to seven calls a week from dental offices seeking students or employees that are ready to go,” said Elizabeth McClure, program director for the dental hygiene department at the University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College.
Students have completed the program, but they can’t get a license yet because COVID-19 caused Ohio’s state dental board to delay the licensing exam twice. McClure said her students should have been licensed in May.
Dr. David Croop of Mt. Lookout Dentistry said he canceled patient appointments in the spring when the office was shut down. Now they’re on hold again because of short staffing.
As a solution, Croup and McClure are pushing Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s office to allow students to get provisional licenses.
“There have been a lot of faculty members who have reached out, a lot of students and a lot of employers,” McClure said.
WCPO reached out to the governor’s office today. A spokesperson said the administration is aware of the shortage and working toward a solution.
“Our office is engaged with the dental board on the issue of dental hygienists. We are aware that testing sites have opened and are scheduling tests for these licenses, and we expect that should help the situation in part,” according to a statement.
Testing for UC Blue Ash students is scheduled for Aug. 26, but McClure said that is still too late.
“It could be mid-September by the time they get licensed or (have) the ability to get licensed,” McClure said.
Meanwhile, Croup is finding a way for his practice to get by.
“We’ve actually hired a hygienist who’s already graduated,” Croup said. “She just hasn’t taken her boards, and we’re using her in a different capacity.”
McClure said some of her students are finding ways to make do. Out of 37 people in the program, three are working under provisional licenses in Kentucky. The rest are waiting to take their exam later this month in Ohio.