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State Score:


Kansas scores low on new Oral Health Report Card

February 2021

Oral Health Kansas is pleased to be able to release a new report card on oral health in Kansas. Our

state received a grade of ‘C’ as compared to the nation’s performance on 13 key oral health

indicators. The grade shows Kansas is making progress on improving oral health, but we have a

long way to go to ensure the population of our state is as healthy as possible.

Less than half of Kansas kids enrolled in KanCare are receiving preventive dental visits each year,

and only one in five children under age two is able to visit the dentist. The general population of

children fares better, with 80% of children under the age of 17 visiting the dentist, however nearly

50% of third graders have tooth decay. Tooth decay is the number one chronic childhood disease. 1

Left untreated, it can be deadly, and it is entirely preventable.

About two-thirds of Kansas adults visit the dentist each year. But nearly a third of older adults have

lost six or more teeth due to tooth decay. Adults can and should keep their teeth throughout their

lives. When people keep their natural teeth, they can eat healthy foods more easily and maintain

their confidence. The cost of treating a single decayed tooth over a lifetime can be as much as

$6,000. 2 Less than half of pregnant women in Kansas have their teeth cleaned, yet studies show

that a woman’s oral health during her pregnancy can determine the baby’s risk for tooth decay. 3

The grades in this report card indicate that in nearly all categories, Kansas has a great deal of room

for improvement in comparison to national figures. The disadvantage of this grading scale is its

ability to hide areas for improvement in positive grades. For example, Kansas received an ‘A’ for

meeting 40% of needs in Dental Health Provider Shortage Areas because the national average is

closer to 30%. What the ‘A’ grade does not show is that 60% of dental needs in these provider

shortage areas in our state are going unmet. This is a clear sign of the need for improvement.

The 2021 Kansas Oral Health Report Card should guide our state’s priorities to make the greatest

impact on improving the oral health for all Kansans. For example, Oral Health Kansas currently has

projects focused on improving access to dental care for people with intellectual and developmental

disabilities, pregnant women, and young children, as well as many educational programs to teach

families the importance of oral health in their overall health. We also continue to work to reduce

the number of Dental Health Provider Shortage Areas and increase the number of dental providers

enrolling in the Medicaid program. Oral Health Kansas joined with the Kansas Dental Association to

advocate successfully with the Kansas Legislature for a Medicaid dental rate increase in 2019 and

2020. This is an important way to increase the number of Medicaid dental providers in the state.

Stakeholders in Kansas need to work together to design strategies to ensure all Kansas children

have access to timely and routine preventive care and to dental sealants. We also need to

collaborate on policies to increase access to dental care for adults, including routine affordable care

for pregnant women and older Kansans. More work needs to be done to increase the KanCare

dental provider network in rural, urban, and suburban Kansas. A comprehensive dental benefit for

adults needs to be included in KanCare in order to ensure more than two-thirds of adults can

afford to visit a dentist regularly. Finally, current data needs to be a focus for our state, as some of

the data points included in this report card are based on the most recent data, which is several

years old.

We invite you to review all thirteen of the oral health indicators on the report card, as they each

have a story to tell about the oral health of Kansas. Then join us in the fight to improve services,

supports, and policies to increase access to optimal oral health for all Kansans.

About Oral Health Kansas

Oral Health Kansas is a statewide organization whose mission is to improve oral health in Kansas

through advocacy, public awareness and education. The organization is dedicated to promoting the

importance of lifelong dental health by shaping policy and educating the public, so Kansans know

that all mouths matter. Follow us on our website , as well as Facebook and Twitter.


Children’s Dental Health Project http://www.endcavities.org/cavities


Children’s Dental Health Project http://www.endcavities.org/at-stake


Children’s Dental Health Project http://www.endcavities.org/during-pregnancy















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