For Immediate Release
September 14, 2009

KDHE Office of Communications
communications@kdheks.gov, 785-296-0461

KDHE Releases Oral Health Assessment for 2009

Assessment looks at workforce planning and future needs in the dental workforce
New federal grant dollars to provide assistance in addressing assessmentís findings

Rural areas of Kansas will face a serious shortage of dental professionals in the next three to five years, according to a comprehensive new report on the dental workforce released today by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE).

While dentists and dental hygienists play a critical role in improving health outcomes, many Kansans living in rural and urban underserved areas do not have access to dental professionals. 

Small and rural communities often face the challenge of recruiting a dentist and their staff, and many people go without access to services because they lack a provider or the distance to one is too great.

In response to this growing problem, KDHE’s Bureau of Oral Health today released its statewide Oral Health Assessment for 2009.  This assessment is the first step in evidence-based workforce planning and takes a serious look at problems of reach and equity in the dental workforce. 

The data included in this report will set the stage for future discussions about how Kansas communities can ensure that all Kansans have access to high quality and affordable oral health care.

“Dentists and dental hygienists are essential to public health efforts in Kansas.  They not only treat and prevent dental diseases, but also participate in prevention and wellness efforts, such as tobacco cessation and nutritional counseling,” said Dr. Jason Eberhart-Phillips, State Health Officer and Director of Health at KDHE. 

Dr. Eberhart-Phillips added, “Recent research confirms that poor oral health is connected to a host of other chronic diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and poor pregnancy outcomes. It is clear that oral health professionals have a crucial role to play in the state’s primary care workforce, and they are critical to maintaining the good health of Kansans.”

Some of the findings in the assessment include:

To address the findings, the assessment recommends enhancing workforce planning for Kansas by:

Just as the Oral Health Assessment for 2009 was being completed, KDHE’s Bureau of Oral Health received word that it would receive $355,153 in federal funding for the first year of a three-year Health Resources Administration Systems (HRSA) Grant to create and implement an oral health professional recruitment program. 

“The HRSA grant could not come at a better time for those Kansans that go without access to oral health care” said Dr. Katherine Weno, Director of KDHE’s Bureau of Oral Health. “This three-year federal grant will provide funds to allow the Bureau of Oral Health to address the workforce report recommendations by enabling us to provide direct support to Kansas communities who are trying to strengthen their local dental workforce.”

In the first year of the grant the Bureau of Oral Health’s activities will include:

For the final two years of the grant funding will be available for locally initiated recruitment and access projects. 

KDHE’s Bureau of Oral Health worked alongside its statewide partners, such as the University of Kansas Medical Center’s Center for Community Health Improvement, the Kansas Dental Association, the Kansas Dental Hygienist Association, and the Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved to complete the assessment.

A public meeting will be held to meet with the authors of the report and discuss the results on September 22, 2009, at 3:30 pm at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Wichita, Kansas, in conjunction with the Kansas Public Health Association Conference.   

For more information and to view the complete report, visit www.kdheks.gov/ohi or contact Dr. Katherine Weno, Director of KDHE’s Bureau of Oral health at 785-296-5116 or kweno@kdheks.gov.