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W.K. Kellogg Foundation supports community-led efforts in five states to increase oral health care access by adding dental therapist to the dental team

$16 Million Initiative to Support Efforts in Kansas, New Mexico, Ohio, Vermont and Washington, and Inform Other States As They Struggle with How to Address Increasing Oral Health Needs

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. – As a pioneering program in Alaska attracts attention for bringing sorely needed dental care to underserved communities, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation today announced that it will support efforts in five states to pursue a similar model, using dental therapists as part of an expanded dental team to end severe dental care shortages across the U.S. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation will invest more than $16 million by 2014 in the Dental Therapist Project, which includes efforts in Kansas, New Mexico, Ohio, Vermont and Washington, as part of a larger effort to build awareness of oral health access issues and bring quality dental care to every community.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, alongside its national lead grantee for the state work – Community Catalyst, is supporting community-led efforts in these states to establish dental therapist programs as a way to expand access to oral health care. Community Catalyst, a national non-profit advocacy organization that works to build community leadership in the health care arena, will work with states to build coalitions and educate lawmakers on the dental therapist approach.

As a longtime supporter of a range of community-driven solutions for addressing oral health access issues among vulnerable children and families, the Kellogg Foundation believes a multi-pronged approach, which includes prevention, oral health literacy and a strong public health infrastructure, is critical to good oral health. At the same time it is also necessary to increase access to basic, regular dental care for preventing serious problems and identifying and treating problems early when they do occur. Dental therapists, working as part of the dental team, can provide both prevention services and treatment in underserved communities.

Alaska is presently the only state with an active dental therapist program in the United States, as dental therapists have been providing care to Alaska Native communities since 2005. In 2009, Minnesota enacted a law authorizing dental therapists to practice and is now training students in this emerging profession. Other states, including California, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Maine are also exploring this new workforce opportunity as they struggle to address the severe oral health needs in their communities. Read the full release

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