TOPEKA – Dental problems accounted for at least 17,500 emergency room visits in Kansas in 2010, according to a new report by the Pew Center on the States.
Emergency rooms are the most expensive places to receive care, and taxpayers pick up most of the tab through Medicaid and other public programs.
The Pew report, “A Costly Dental Destination,” estimates that, across the country, preventable dental conditions were the primary reason for 830,590 ER visits by Americans in 2009 – a 16 percent increase from 2006.
The problem is particularly serious here in Kansas, where 93 counties don’t have enough dentists to serve residents and 28 counties don’t have a single Medicaid dental provider.
“Nearly all dental emergencies can be prevented through routine, preventive care that is not available to many Kansas families,” said Cathy Harding, executive director of the Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved. “We can address this problem by adding mid-level providers such as registered dental practitioners to the dental team to help children and families get the dental care they need, when they need it, so that they don’t have to go to an ER.”
The Kansas Dental Project has been working to increase access to oral health care by expanding the dental team to include registered dental practitioners, who could provide many of the same services that people seek in the ER. RDPs would work under the supervision of a dentist in rural areas, safety-net clinics, schools, nursing homes and other areas where dental needs are unmet. The RDP proposal, Senate Bill 192/House Bill 2280, is currently in the Kansas Legislature’s Public Health and Welfare and Health and Human Services committees, respectively.
The Kansas Dental Project is a collaborative effort by Kansas citizens, community leaders and health care professionals to address the dental workforce shortage in Kansas and improve access to dental care for Kansans in rural and underserved areas.
The Kansas Dental Project is spearheaded by:
Kansas Action for Children 720 SW Jackson, Suite 201 Topeka, Kansas 66603 785.232.0550
Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved 1129 S Kansas, Suite B Topeka, Kansas 66612 785.233.8483
Kansas Health Consumer Coalition 534 S Kansas, Suite 1220 Topeka, Kansas 66603 785.232.9997
“This solution will create jobs and improve health, particularly in rural communities,” said Harding.
The Kansas Dental Project is a team of citizens, advocates and health care professionals who are working together to address the dental workforce shortage in Kansas. The project is led by Kansas Action for Children, the Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved and the Kansas Health Consumer Coalition. More than 30 nonprofit, community and professional organizations make up the coalition of supporters.
For more information, go to or follow the Kansas Dental Project on Twitter: @kansasdental.