We are working with partners across the country to build awareness of oral health access issues and to end dental care shortages that disproportionately afflict low-income communities and communities of color by bringing quality dental care to every community.
Communities, tribes, child health advocates, policymakers and oral health professionals in the U.S. are engaging in conversations to explore how new mid-level dental providers, such as dental therapists, can work as part of the dental team to extend care to underserved areas.
Equally important to addressing the growing needs for dental care, is the need for a diverse and culturally-competent pipeline for the dental profession. There is an estimated shortage of 6,600 dentists in this country, and working with the dental profession is critical to address the gaps in dental care. Our work together explores ways to extend the reach of the current dental workforce, and ensure that dental teams reflect the communities they serve.
Today, there is growing momentum at state, tribal and federal levels to examine strategies that address the barriers to care and growing inequities in oral health. In 2006, WKKF first funded the dental health aide therapist educational program, created by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. In 2010, WKKF began working with five community coalitions: Kansas Action for Children, Washington Children’s Alliance, Health Action New Mexico, Vermont Voices for Children and Universal Health Care Access Network – Ohio, to explore from the ground up, innovative, culturally-appropriate ways to expand access to dental are to children most in need.
Several tribes and states are working on innovative ways to start potential training and practice pilot programs.
Nationally, we are working with Community Catalyst, the National Congress of American Indians, Children’s Dental Health Project, Pew Center on the States, child health advocates and Tribal leaders to explore the feasibility of expanding the dental team - as part of the many strategies necessary to improve the oral health of the too many children and families who can’t get quality and affordable dental care today.