A new study says many people in Virginia don't have access to dental care because of costs, and a lack of dentists.
The study by two economists at the University of Virginia found cost is the greatest barrier. Those least likely to visit a dentist are low-income residents without insurance, who have low-cost public health.
More than 15 percent of the state's population lives in areas designated by the federal government as dental Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs).
The study recommends allowing dental hygienists to offer fluoride varnish, and routine cleaning without a dentist's supervision. It says that would expand access to care at a low cost. The hygienists could also identify patients who need more care, and refer them to a dentist.