Lincoln Memorial University will open a new dental school this fall in Knoxville

There are only two other dental schools in Tennessee, and the third will be in Knoxville.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — There are only two dental schools in Tennessee. The third one is set to open in Knoxville soon. 

Lincoln Memorial University’s new College of Dental Medicine is set to open this fall, and the new college addresses a more significant issue in Tennessee. The state has around half the number of required dentists per 100,000 patients, stretching resources thin, according to Dr. Terese Cook.

Data shows there are just not enough dentists in Tennessee, especially in East Tennessee and rural Appalachia.

Dr. Terese Cook, the dean of the new school, said having a dental school in the region gives students in the area the opportunity to attend a college closer to home and expands dental care. 

She said the COVID-19 pandemic made the shortage of dentists worse.  

Practices have closed and new dentists aren’t coming in, she said. They’re not taking over those empty practices, and soo the problem becomes more detrimental to the community over time.

LMU’s new dental school welcomes all students to the program. They hope people living close by who are interested in dentistry will take full advantage of it.

“And it is a dual mission to educate the students of East Tennessee and Appalachia and bring dental care back to the much-needed dental desert in East Tennessee,” said Dr. Cook. “And the other is to provide care for the patients.”

The program features new technology and all the tools needed to practice dental work. It will be located at LMU’s tower at the old Saint Mary’s Hospital site in North Knoxville. The site is now being renovated into the city’s new safety center complex.

Classes will not start until September 12, but there are already 80 students on the roster lined up for the fall. They are also getting a head start. 

“And they’re doing the hands-on portion of that program now,” said Dr. Cook. “So it just gives them a leg up in dentistry, knowing the terminology and instrumentation.”

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