Task force recommends dental school for Kansas to fix dental shortage; health care advocates push for registered dental practitioners

By Scott Rothschild

TOPEKA - A Kansas Board of Regents task force on Thursday recommended that Kansas start preparing to establish a dental school to address what it said were “dental care service deserts.”

Task force members also acknowledged that starting a dental school would be an expensive proposition, and they recommended that in the short term, the state purchase seats at dental schools in surrounding states.

Addressing the shortage of dentists “is a much broader problem and it will require much broader answers than I think anyone can imagine,” said Robba Moran, of Hays, who is a member of the Kansas Board of Regents and who served on the Oral Health Care Task Force.

The Kansas Dental Project, which consists of health care advocacy organizations, said the task force should have recommended allowing registered dental practitioners to work in Kansas.

“Kansas has a dental access crisis now. We can’t afford to wait,” said Dr. Melinda Miner, a dentist in Hays. “Fort Hays State University has already agreed to educate and train registered dental practitioners right here in Kansas. Within just a few years, we could have mid-levels seeing patients and helping dentists like me grow our practices.”

Dental hygienists who obtain additional education and training and pass a comprehensive exam could become registered dental practitioners, or RDPs, the Kansas Dental Project said. They would work under supervising dentists to provide routine and preventive care. More than 40 state and national health and advocacy organizations have endorsed the RDP proposal, according to the group.

The Oral Health Care Task Force found that 93 of 105 counties in Kansas face a dental workforce shortage.

The report said there are about 57,000 Kansans who live in areas where the closest dental office is at least a 30-minute drive away.

And the report said only one in four Kansas dentists accepts Medicaid patients.

The state needs an influx of 60 new dentists per year to replace baby boomer-generation dentists who are retiring, the task force said.

The task force recommends purchasing dental student slots in schools in Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma, and requiring that the students return to Kansas and work with underserved populations.

The state should also start putting together a plan to establish a Kansas dental school. A new dental school admitting 60 students per year would have startup costs of about $58 million, with $19.5 million in operating costs, the report said.

Regents Chairman Ed McKechnie, of Arcadia, said the report, completed after seven months, was just one step in the process.

“We are going to keep working on this,” he said.

Kevin Robertson, executive director of the Kansas Dental Association, said, “Kansas dentists and all Kansans should be encouraged by the recommendations, which call for maintaining access to quality care by continuing to grow the number of professionally educated dentists in our state.”

Tagged: oral, health

Comments

mikekt 1 year, 10 months ago

The biggest problem would be attracting Dentists & Doctors to rural areas & that would require a bit of imagination, combined with common sense & the will of the legislature to act as if they are "the adults in the room" ( Not speed so much time kicking & screaming on the floor about some perfect world that will never exist & get on with solving the same old state problems of rural areas ) to either create state programs or to aid in the creation of nonprofit programs that would work this out. And by the way, what do you think that an existing dentist or doctor with a "four county wide monopoly" is going to think of this idea, when a new guy moves in two miles from his location? I can see legislators fleeing the capitol building yelling slogans about free market economies because this would actually require them to think hard to solve multiple real problems that have no perfect answers, which really need to be faced, which might cause the Libertarian Pseudo Conservatives (?) to throw them under the Koch PAC Bus, if they dare to do anything but run for their political lives from this issue!

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kuguardgrl13 1 year, 10 months ago

They should definitely consider all of the Regents Universities for a potential dentistry school. KU already has the med school campus, but WSU does have the AEGD program and a health professions school. Maybe a partnership between WSU and KUMC Wichita? K-State could even be considered, although they already have the only veterinary school in the state. Pitt State, Fort Hays, and Emporia would help rural Kansas but would probably have issues drawing students from outside of Kansas. You also wonder if a dental school would include orthodontics and oral surgery. I don't know that much about the field, but I believe all of those programs are usually included.

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mikekt 1 year, 10 months ago

First off, Wichita State already has an Advanced Education In General Dentistry School ( A.E.G.D. ) that opened a year or so ago. Which is kind of a back ward way to build a States' Dental School System, as A.E.G.D. is 1 or 2 Years of education, that comes after 4 years of General Dental School, were the student emerges as a Doctor of Dental Surgery ( D.D.S. ). The method behind the madness of building an A.E.G.D. School in Wichita, was that if other state dental schools were turning out more graduate dentists than there were spots for them, in other states A.E.G.D. Programs, that a Kansas Program could pick off the excess students wanting into an A.E.G.D. School & that after these students finished Wichita States' A.E.G.D., that they would likely go into practice close to their last school in Wichita Kansas ( and supposedly statistics back that assumption up! ) Now recall that Dentists often go into practice close to their last attended school. Recall also that Johnson County Ks is full of UMKC grads. from just across the state line. Notice also that Wichita is the other main Kansas town that could absorb newly graduated dentists. So, how many people live in Hays Ks,....a smaller town that can only hold how many dentists, in practice? Truthfully, Wichita State might be be best place to put a General Dental School because the advanced part of a Dental Program is already there along with some educators & administrators! As for getting Dentists ( & Doctors ) into rural areas;..... sorry, but that is going to take some major social engineering, (probably including getting doctors, as well, into geographically & population wise centered hub towns ) which is going to be a painfully political & screwed up process, because everybody wants pie but nobody wants to make it or pay for it in our tax liberated society! Might be a job for a Three Judge Federal Panel ( Ha,Ha,Ha! ) to straighten out, as our governor & legislature are fixated on tax cut experiments, Islamic Law & the UN.

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consumer1 1 year, 10 months ago

Adding new dentist will only solve a small portion of the real problem, which is the exhorbitent cost of dental care. Who can afford dental work except the poor who have no insurance. The middle class has insurance but the co-pay is insufficient because dentist jack up the pricing for folks with healthcare. What is obama doing for the middle class????? Oh that is right! Raising taxes so we can pay for dental care for those who can't or won't work. Thanks allot!!

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