To the editor:
The Kansas Dental Association’s call for an additional 140 dentists to see Medicaid patients, while commendable, is not enough to help the thousands of children who lack access to a dentist. In fact, even if every dentist in Kansas saw “a few” Medicaid patients, as the KDA urges, it wouldn’t help children who live in rural areas, where there are few or no dentists at all. Right now, 93 counties are short on dentists and 13 counties have none. A piecemeal approach won’t work; we need to expand the dental team, which would extend the reach of the dental workforce, create new jobs, and increase access to routine dental care for everyone.
This year, lawmakers considered legislation that would add new mid-level providers to the dental team, similar to adding nurse practitioners to the health care team. Registered dental practitioners would provide routine care like cleanings and fillings, while freeing up dentists to provide services that only they can provide. Other states and 52 countries use this approach and some of our strongest advocates for children and the medically underserved want to build on this solution and make it work for Kansas.
While I hope that more dentists decide to participate in Medicaid, I also believe it’s time to try a new approach to ensure that all children can receive routine oral health care where they live and when they need it.