The AT Still Missouri School of Dentistry & Oral Health in Kirksville is scheduled to open October 1st, after receiving initial accreditation last week.
Dean Christopher Halliday says many people in rural areas such as Kirksville are underserved when it comes to dental care. He hopes the opening of the school will fix that issue.
“I want to raise the awareness with our students of the fact that there are huge segments of population in this country that just for whatever reason, for a variety of reasons, don’t have access to oral health,” Halliday said.
The Missouri Dental Association’s Trustee for the region Dr. Tisha Kice-Briggs also hopes the new school will be a solution.
“I believe we need more dentists in Missouri and probably the best way to get more dentists in Missouri is with a dental school in the area,” Dr. Kice-Briggs said.
According to a Pew Children’s Dental Campaign report in 2008, Missouri has the 2nd lowest percentage of children under 18 receiving dental service among the states at 27%. And according to the US Department of Health and Human Service’s Health Resources and Services Administration, 101 of the state’s 114 counties are considered dental health provider shortage areas.
Forty-two students will be in the first enrollment class at AT Still. First and second year students will take classes on the Kirksville campus, while third and fourth year students will take classes in a St. Louis clinic.
Most dental schools have clinical facilities on their main campus. Halliday says educating people about the school’s new model of teaching has been a challenge.