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State of Decay: Rural Kentucky county without dentist since mid-70′s

Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 5:00 PM EDT
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ROBERTSON COUNTY, Ky. (WXIX) - The people who live in Roberston County, Kentucky do not have a dentist to visit and they haven’t since the mid-1970′s. Health experts describe the lack of accessible dental care as a state of decay.

The federal government says 474 counties across the country are designated as dental shortage areas.

Robertson County is the only county in Kentucky and one of only 229 counties nationwide that does not have a single dentist.

Some Mt. Olivet residents do not see the need for a dentist in town.

They say things are fine just the way they are.

“If we want a dentist or a doctor, so we drive a half-hour, okay? We don’t want a big city. We got low crime. It’s a great place,” Sue Green, Mt. Olivet resident, said. “We’ve got the same problems everyplace does, but we back each other up, you know.”

Having a practicing dentist here is one thing. People say getting a doctor to make Mt. Olivet their home is another.

“Once they [doctors] realize they can’t make any money, well, they’re not going to stay,” Dough Wright, of Mt. Olivet, said.

The residents of Robertson County have three options when they have a problem tooth.

They can tough it out through the pain, drive at least 30 minutes to a dentist in a nearby town like Maysville or use a home remedy.

“One time when I was a kid, they used a pair of pliers and a rag,” Wright recalls. “You put the rag around the tooth, put the pliers around the rag, and popped it out. I also had one pulled using a door. You tied the string around the tooth, string around the doorknob. Slam the door.”

A practicing dentist is not the only thing Robertson County lacks.

No doctors, no pediatricians, no nurse practitioners, not even an ambulance in the county.

[Lacking Health Resources: The Great Health Divide]

The lack of health resources does not seem to be a concern for the residents.

“An ambulance is going to take you a half-hour. We drive either way to get to a hospital. A half-hour. You know, you speed - 20 minutes. It’s no biggie,” Green said. “I don’t think we have people dropping down dead because we don’t have an ambulance.”

Kenwood-based Next Direct came to Robertson County in June to offer a subscription doctor and ambulance service to the residents but the company says there were not enough people who signed up.

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