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Dental Care Crisis: Is a Healthy Smile Possible for all Ohioans?

November 17, 2010

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A new initiative kicks off today to ensure all Ohioans can have healthy smiles through proper dental care. According to Dental Access Now, nearly one million Ohioans live where there are no dentists available and one in five cannot afford oral health care.

Among them is 23-year-old Raquel Rios of Columbus, who says she has suffered from dental problems since age six. Although she and her parents work, she explains no one in her family has ever been able to afford dental insurance.

"It's just something unfortunately that is seen as a commodity in our country. And I've had to go out of my way to get the dental service I need. I actually have left the country to get cavities filled. It's pretty devastating."

Rios says more dental providers are needed who are willing to treat lower-income people. She plans to enroll in dental school so she can become one of those providers.

In the meantime, to expand the reach of dental care in Ohio, Dental Access Now is suggesting the use of the dental therapists, mid-level practitioners who can provide primary prevention services, routine fillings and extractions. Dental therapist programs have been used in England and Canada, as well as Alaska.

Executive Director of the CincySmiles Foundation, Dr. Larry Hill, visited the Alaskan program and says the dental therapists work under the supervision of regular dentists and are very well trained.

"The amount of clinical training that they receive on the limited scope of services that they are allowed to provide was, without question, more than the dentists have an opportunity to receive."

Dr. Hill believes the dental therapist model can help to address the lack of access to providers while expanding affordable care in under-served communities. Training is possible through community-based programs housed at local colleges and universities, he adds.

For more information about the program, visit

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH