By Lindsay Sax
February 10, 2016

A group of more than 200 people are pushing for brighter smiles in the Sunflower State.

Supporters of the Kansas Dental Project set up shop at the Statehouse Wednesday. They were pushing for lawmakers to create a mid-level dental therapist position at Kansas dental offices.

“We’re thrilled to host a record number of dental champions at our 2016 Advocacy Day,” said Katrina McGivern, policy and public affairs director, Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved. “Momentum continues to build around dental therapy and we’re eager to educate lawmakers about how dental therapy can benefit Kansas communities and the Kansas economy.”

Pittsburg Dentist Dr. Daniel Minnis says there is a huge population of underserved Kansans, saying 83 percent of counties have a dentist shortage, and 13 counties don’t have a dentist at all.

Last week Senate Bill 413 was introduced to the legislature. It would create a mid-level dental therapist position in Kansas; Minnis compares the position to a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant. In the legislation is says that dental therapists will be graduates of CODA-accredited dental therapy programs. They will also work under the supervision of dentists to provide routine and preventive care like cleanings, fillings, and simple extractions.

Minnis says it is hard to bring dentists to Kansas since there is not dental school in the state and they must continue to fight for the underserved Kansas residents.

“It’s something that needs to happen, it is something that has to happen” he said. “The medical profession fought nurse practitioners and they fought physician’s assistants for years, but what we found out is that once we have those kind of providers access to care increases, everybody benefits.”

To supervise a dental therapist, the new legislation specifies that dentists must enroll as a Medicaid provider or be employed by a safety net clinic.

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