Grant Funding Seeks to Get Rural Kansas Access to Dental Services

Aug 6, 2013

Dutch Finn, 8, and his mom, Shelby Longren, wait in line for dental treatment at the Manhattan National Guard Armory, Kansas Mission of Mercy Dental Clinic.
Credit Ann Williamson/Kansas Health Institute

A $100,000 grant is being awarded to a Kansas organization to study potential solutions to bring dental care closer to home for thousands of rural Kansans.

DentaQuest Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the major national dental insurance company, awarded Oral Health Kansas the grant, reports Kansas Health Institute.

The non-profit organization will use the grant to create plan to address the dental services shortage and submit to the foundation for a possible additional two-year grant to implement the plan.

A 2011 University of Kansas report found 57,000 Kansans live in areas with no nearby access to a dental office.  The majority of these areas include rural counties in western Kansas where no dentist is available within a half-hour drive of residents' homes.

The report highlights four areas it calls "dental deserts" centered on these areas in western Kansas:

  • Greeley, Wallace, and Logan counties
  • Ness, Lane, and Hodgeman counties
  • Comanche, Kiowa, Clark, and Barber counties
  • Haskell and Gray counties

An example of a barrier to wider access to dental care is the law passed by the Kansas legislature in 2011 allowing hospitals in smaller communities of under 50,000 people to operate dental clinics.  A recent study by the Kansas Hospital Education and Research Foundation exampled the possibility of hospital-based dental clinics in Ashland and Scott City.  Complex cost issues have prevented hospitals from starting such dental clinics.

A handful of Kansas health associations, nursing home groups, the state department of health, and a large dental insurer will have representatives serving on a planning group implemented using the grant.