Texas Tech University in El Paso announced Tuesday it plans to open the first dental school along the U.S.-Mexico border in 2020.
The southwest border has long been recognized as a medically under-served region with a shortage of health care providers.
The dentist to patient ratio in border counties from California to Texas is lower than the national average according to the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission. Border residents also visit the dentist less often, which can lead to other problems including diabetes and heart disease.
Texas Tech University hopes to address this problem by opening a dental school in El Paso four years from now.
Their plan is possible thanks to a $25 million grant from the Hunt Family Foundation of El Paso. The money is a little under half of what the university needs to open the school.
Dr. Richard Lange, president of the university's health science department in El Paso, said their goal is to retain graduates of the dental school in the border region.
"We're hopeful there'll be fewer people that want to leave the area and we're hopeful that there'll be more who will want to come into the area to receive their care from local experts," he said.
Border residents, especially those without health insurance, commonly cross into Mexico to receive dental care where it's often cheaper.