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Southeast Kansas medical experts discuss shortage of dentists in - KOAM TV 7

Southeast Kansas medical experts discuss shortage of dentists in state

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Doctor Dan Minnis sees an average of 60 patients a day, 30 percent who are underprivileged.  

But for each one he sees, there are many in need.

"It's a man power shortage issue, said Minnis. "There are just not enough dentists in this state to take care of the patients that we have here."

According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, at least 90 of the 105 counties in the state have a shortage of dental providers.

"It's tough to find a dentist in the urban areas of the state, but when you look at a place like Southeast Kansas, people are driving for hours to go see a dentist," said Christie Appelhanz of Kansas Action for Children. 

Krista Postai of the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas says the younger generation of dentists is not filling the gap for the number retiring.

"The model has changed dramatically," said Postai. "People are going into groups. The idea of the private practice, unfortunately, because of the economic situation, is getting harder and harder for people to maintain.  

"People are really concerned about how we're going to fill the oral health needs of Kansans," said Appelhanz.

To fill the void, some experts support having mid-level dental providers in Kansas, registered hygienists who receive extra training to conduct procedures under the supervision of a dentist.

"They're able take care of minor procedures," said Minnis. "That leaves us free to take care of the root canals, the major surgical procedures that these children and adults need." 

Advocates of mid-level dental providers say they work in the same manner as nurse practitioners or physician's assistants.  

Those opposed fear they could take business away from dentists.  

But concerning the present, Minnis says the need has turned into a crisis.  

"Tooth decay leads to a lot of other health illnesses, in fact it can lead to death," said Minnis.


In the last legislative session, a proposed bill to create registered dental practitioners did not receive a hearing. Other states that allow mid-level providers are Minnesota, Alaska and Maine.




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