Initiative aims to improve dental care for Kansans

TOPEKA | The Kansas Dental Association today outlined a legislative initiative to improve the level of oral health for Kansans.

David Hamel, president of the KDA, introduced the plan. He said the association’s goal is to bring more dentists to underserved rural areas of the state.

“Our desire is that they receive the best care possible,” Hamel said.

Hamel said there were 14 Kansas counties without dentists, which means 1.5 percent of the state’s population have to travel long distances to get dental care or go without. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s 2010 report said 28 of 105 counties – nearly 27 percent of the state – were designated federal dental health professional shortage areas. Counties must have at least 5,000 people per dentist, or between 4,000 and 4,999 people per dentist with a demonstrated overload or proof of unusually high need, as part of the criteria to receive federal HPSA designation.

One way the KDA’s initiative plans to extend coverage to more Kansans inrural areas without dentists is to regain funding for its Donated Dental Service Program. The program’s funding, $70,000 a year, was cut last year because of budget concerns.

Hamel said he understood that it could be difficult to find funding because of the Legislature’s current budget cuts.

“The legislators have a tough decision to make,” he said. “There are priorities that have to be made.”

The KDA’s initiative also includes expanding Medicaid to provide dental coverage to low-income adults. Currently, Medicaid only provides dental coverage to children.