Why Texas Tech Says El Paso Needs A Dental School

“Unfortunately, when you look over the last 10 years of dental graduates from our Texas schools, less than two percent end up practicing in West Texas.”

By Laura RiceMarch 26, 2019 2:01 pm, ,

Texas Tech University has asked the legislature to reappropriate $20 million of $50 million currently set aside for the School of Medicine at its Health Sciences Center in El Paso to establish a School of Dental Medicine there.

Dr. Richard Lange is President of Tech’s Health Sciences Center in El Paso and Dean of its School of Medicine. He says Texas needs another dental school — even though it already has three.

“The state of Texas, across the board, has a 25 percent shortage of dentists compared to the United States,” Lange says. “And in West Texas, it’s about 55 to 60 percent shortage of dentists.”

Lange says a new dental school could alleviate that West Texas disparity. Right now, the closest dental school to El Paso is 550 miles away.

“What we know is that if you train in Texas, you’re likely to stay in Texas and 75 percent of the dentists who train, stay geographically close to where their training sites are,” Lange says.

If everything goes as planned, Lange says, the first class of students at the new dental school could be admitted in 2021.

Meanwhile, Texas Tech University continues to try to get legislators on board with a much higher profile push for a new veterinary school. Right now, the only veterinary school in the state is at Texas A&M University. Lange says he’s hopeful both of Tech’s efforts can get support.

“Well, you know, they’re both independent needs,” Lange says. “I mean my dentists aren’t going to meet the needs of the veterinary shortage in Texas… and the veterinarians aren’t going to meet my dental needs. For decades, we’ve had a chronic shortage of dental providers and we have a chronic shortage of veterinary providers as well. So it’s just bubble[d] up at the same time.”

Support for Texas Standard’s ”Spotlight on Health” project is provided by St. David’s Foundation.