For Immediate Release
November 2, 2007

KDHE Office of Communications, 785-296-0461

State Oral Health Plan Unveiled

Good Oral Health Noted as ‘Essential’ to Overall Health

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) today released the new Kansas Oral Health Plan at the Oral Health Kansas Annual Conference in Wichita. The plan lays the groundwork for improving access to dental care statewide.

“Good oral health is essential to protect overall health,” stated Roderick L. Bremby, Secretary of KDHE. “We are grateful to all who participated in the development of this plan, which will serve as the blueprint for improving the oral health of all Kansans.”

Many communities lack adequate numbers of dentists. As of June, according to the Kansas Dental Board, 1,367 dentists and 1,473 registered dental hygienists had active licenses and a practice address in Kansas. Kansas is 33 rd in the nation in the number of dentists per capita, with a statewide ratio of one dentist for every 2,557 residents. This is well below the national average of one dentist per 1,650 residents noted by the American Dental Association in their 2005 national dental workforce data, the most recent available.

Furthermore, many Kansans are uninsured or underinsured for dental care, especially children and the elderly. 2006 data from the Kansas Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System show that only about 65.5 percent of Kansans surveyed reported having any sort of dental coverage, such as private insurance, public programs or Medicaid. Of those surveyed, 12.5 percent said they had needed dental care within the past 12 months but did not get it. The overwhelming reason given for not seeking care was because they could not afford the costs (78 percent).

The Kansas Oral Health Plan has been a yearlong project between the KDHE Office of Oral Health and Oral Health Kansas, a state oral health coalition. The plan is the first statewide comprehensive document of its kind.

“The completion of Kansas’ first comprehensive oral health plan is a big step for all of us who work in oral health. Kansas is lucky to have many dedicated and knowledgeable people committed to this issue,” said Katherine Weno, director of the KDHE Office of Oral Health.

The importance of maintaining good oral health is often overlooked. Tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease; five times more common than asthma. Untreated tooth decay has been associated with eating, learning and speech problems and diminished self-esteem in children.

Even though dental decay is preventable and treatable, many children do not receive routine care. Fifty five percent of Kansas children have experienced tooth decay by the time they reach third grade. Eighty percent of all tooth decay is concentrated in 25 percent of generally lower income children.

Seventy five percent of all adults have some form of gum, or periodontal, disease. Gum disease has been linked to premature low-weight births, diabetes, lung disease and heart disease.

Dental disease in general is also a major cause of missed school and workdays.

The Kansas Oral Health Plan was developed by KDHE in conjunction with many partners, including the Kansas Dental Association, the Kansas Dental Hygienists’ Association, the Kansas Health Policy Authority, Kansas Head Start Association and the Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved.

Community meetings were held throughout the past year to gather input for the plan. Topics included children’s oral health needs, dental education and the oral health of underserved populations such as elders and persons with special health care needs.

To review the Kansas Oral Health Plan and other oral health information, please visit the Oral Health Initiative Web site at