The people of Kansas will soon have more access to dental care.
Governor Sam Brownback recently signed a bill into law that will help the state deal with a shortage of dentists. Dental hygienists will soon have an increased role in dealing with tooth decay because there are currently 93 counties that don’t have enough dentists. There are 13 counties that don’t have any dentists.
This bill could have added more coverage by including people known as registered dental therapists that can perform many duties that dentists normally handle. That part of the bill didn’t pass. Alaska and Minnesota are the only states that allow dental therapists to perform such duties.
People in the dental industry were against allowing dental therapists and dental hygienists to perform the duties of dentists because patients could be at risk if some additional procedures are done by someone other than a dentist.
Under these new laws, dental hygienists can pull the loosest of baby teeth and can scrape away tooth decay with a hand instrument, in addition to providing temporary fillings. They can only treat people that would be considered poor, elderly patients and prisoners who live in residential centers.
One of the reasons Kansas has this shortage of dentists is because the state does not have a dental school. But, according to this bill, more slots will be added for Kansas residents at the University of Missouri-Kansas City dental school. These students would be required to work in underserved areas for a minimum of four years after graduating.
A special license will also be given to retired dentists who choose to donate their time to treat patients who live in areas where there’s a lack of dentists or treat patients that are poor.