TOPEKA, Kan. — A coalition of more than 50 advocacy groups in Kansas has suggested educating dental therapists to work under the supervision of established dentists to help cover a service gap in the state.

Four out of five counties in Kansas don’t have enough dentists to meet demand and 14 of the state’s counties have no dentistry practitioners at all, The Topeka Capital-Journal (http://bit.ly/2bV9jiI ) reports. The Kansas Board of Regents suggested in early August the possibility of starting the state’s first school of dentistry at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

The coalition is offering the education of dental therapists as an alternative.

Graduates of the dental therapy programs would be eligible to perform routine or preventative care that includes extractions, fillings and cleanings.

The coalition includes the Kansas Dental Hygienists’ Association, Oral Health Kansas, Disability Rights Center of Kansas, Kansas Action for Children and numerous health-related groups.

The Kansas Dental Association is not a part of the coalition has lobbied against filling the gap in services by opening the field to dental therapist since 2011. Association representatives have said patients would be placed in danger if dental therapists were used.

Annie McKay, executive director of Kansas Action for Children, which heads the coalition, said research showed providers working as dental therapists would provide safe and quality care.

McKay said the use of dental therapists will allow existing dentist to expand their operations on site or at satellite facilities.

“We can begin to fill the gap in dental care for the hundreds of thousands who don’t get it,” McKay said. “This is a low- to no-cost option for the state of Kansas. This is something that makes sense. It’s a job-creation program.”


Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com