As doctors of oral health, Kansas dentists are on the front lines of many issues involving public health in our state.† We take seriously our obligation to identify and advance a full range of solutions to elevate the dental care provided to Kansans.

Recently, the Kansas Dental Association launched a comprehensive initiative to help eliminate barriers to dental care.† We know that a systematic approach is going to be more effective than any single suggestion or action. Some of these recommendations can be implemented sooner than others, but regardless we are deeply committed to meeting the oral health needs of our state.

Recommended elements include increasing the number of dentists who see Medicaid patients, expanding the services that dental hygienists perform in schools and clinical settings, focusing on recruitment of dentists to the areas identified as priorities by the state and expansion of the stateís Medicaid program to cover adults. In addition, we are pleased to be participating in the Kansas Board of Regents Dental Education Task Force, which has been organized to explore the options for educating more Kansans to become dentists. While Kansas doesnít now have a dental school, we are excited that options for such a facility or a satellite school are being explored.

Of course, we continue our various charitable care programs, including the Kansas Mission of Mercy, which has provided free dental care to about 20,000 Kansans. In addition, dentists provide charitable care daily in dental practices, clinics and community settings all across the state seeing patients who arenít otherwise seeing a dentist on a regular basis.

Lately, other organizations have suggested that a program for non-dental providers be developed in our state. That approach raises serious questions and concerns about patient safety. While every state is somewhat unique in its licensing of health professionals, no other state has a program as is being proposed in Kansas.

There is no single solution, but we know that a combination of efforts involving dentists, hygienists, parents, policymakers and others will benefit the citizens of our state in arriving at a comprehensive approach.

† ó Kevin J. Robertson, CAE, executive director, Kansas Dental Association, Topeka