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Advocates Want To Make Dental Care More Accessible To Underserved Communities

Dr. Anagha Khandekar, right, works on Anna Robinson as oral surgery assistant Myra Brown helps in Aspen Dental's MouthMobile, a dentist office on wheels, Thursday, May 7, 2015, in Columbus, Ohio.
Jay LaPrete
/
Associated Press
Dr. Anagha Khandekar, right, works on Anna Robinson as oral surgery assistant Myra Brown helps in Aspen Dental's MouthMobile, a dentist office on wheels, Thursday, May 7, 2015, in Columbus, Ohio.

A coalition of groups working to expand dental access for unserved or underserved Ohioans says there are cost-effective and common-sense ways to do it.

Janis Sunderhaus, CEO of Health Partners of Western Ohio, says too many Ohioans lack good dental care. For example, she says there is no dentists in Defiance County who will take a Medicaid patient.

Sunderhaus says the only way to really provide oral care for unserved or underserved patients is to allow more options for service.

Carla Hicks with the Ohio Public Health Association says advanced practice registered nurses are integral parts of health care. She says dental therapists could and should be given the opportunity to work with dentists to serve people who lack good dental care.

“The dental therapists can provide the same type of expansion of dental care and improve the state of oral care across Ohio in arrangement with our dentists,” Hicks says.

Hicks and others say poor dental care leads to other health problems. Yet dental care continues to be overlooked when government looks at expanding health care options for poor and underserved communities.

A dozen other states have already passed legislation authorizing dental therapy under a similar model as nurse practitioners.