Dental Care

Dental Care

…dental care was the number one unmet health need for children and low-income adults in our state.


The Problem
In 2000, the Ohio Department of Health declared that dental care was the number one unmet health need for children and low-income adults in our state. To this day, affordable care has been out of reach for too many Ohioans. More than 1.5 million Ohioans live in Ohio’s 85 Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas where there are just not enough dentists, and many more cannot afford dental care. Tooth decay is a silent epidemic and is the leading chronic illness among children.  Poor children, children who live in Ohio’s Appalachian region and children of color are disproportionately affected.

Oral Health Is Essential To Overall Health

We need to take our oral health a lot more seriously.

  • Poor oral health increases our risk of…
    • Stroke
    • Heart disease – including fatal heart attacks
    • Diabetes
  • For older women, it can lead to respiratory infections like…
    • Pneumonia
    • Bone mass loss

Children are Affected the Most

Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease – more common than asthma.

  • Left untreated, dental decay can impede…
    • Learning
    • Social development
    • Proper nutrition
  • It can also lead to a lifetime of…
    • Poor health
    • Increased risk of diabetes, stroke, and heart disease

Expanding the Dental Team Is Key To Expanding Access

We must make dental care affordable for families. Dental therapists (DTs) offer a cost-effective way to help more Ohioans get the dental care they need.  Working as part of a dentist-led team, DTs provide preventive care and routine, everyday services.  That way, dentists can see more patients, and DTs can practice in communities where there aren’t enough dentists.

Dental hygienists are a critical part of the dental team. They provide services that keep people healthy and prevent tooth decay and other disease. Because of the time they spend with patients, dental hygienists are leaders in providing preventive care and education that are essential to improve our health care crisis.

From our conversations with dental hygienists, we recognize that changes in law and practice are needed to allow them to work to the full extent of their training, including providing services when a dentist is not physically present. We support these changes as necessary to our goal of expanding dental care. Expanding the reach of hygienists will enable them to reach more children and adults with more preventive care and education. In addition, we are developing workforce options which combine the current dental hygienist and the dental therapist model into a new dental professional providing safe, quality dental care in Ohio’s Health Professional Shortage Areas.

Why Now?

Our dental care system is failing too many Ohioans, and the problem is getting worse. We should take a cue from the medical care system, where Ohio has done a good job of modernizing our laws and removing restrictive regulations so that nurse practitioners, advance practice nurses, and physician assistants can provide needed care to more people. We need to do the same for dental care. In addition, advances in health information technology mean that DTs can work in remote areas and maintain contact with their supervising dentists.  On May 17, Senator Peggy Lehner, introduced Senate Bill 330 that allows the evidence based providers, dental therapist and dental hygiene therapists, to join the dentist-led team.



  • Get state legislation passed that expands the dental team to include the dental therapist (DT) and dental hygienist therapist (DHT) as important professional members of the dentist led team to help address Ohio’s unmet and worsening dental health access problems and improve quality of care.


    • Organized 3 successful Advocacy Days where supporters met with their legislators to ask them to sponsor dental therapist legislation.
    • Grew the the number of organizations that support us from 62 to 88 including diverse groups such as Ohio Public Health Association, Americans for Prosperity, and Ohio Dental Hygiene Association.
    • Obtained Legislative sponsor for dental therapist legislation, Senator Peggy Lehner, who introduced SB330 during the 2016 legislative session to add dental therapists to the dentist-led team..

Leadership Team

  • CareSource
  • Clintonville Resource Center, Columbus Ohio
  • Ohio Association of Dental Hygienists
  • Ohio Association of Foodbanks
  • Ohio Public Health Association
  • UHCAN Ohio
  • NASW Ohio Chapter


Flyer: Good Oral Health is Essential to Overall Health

Flyer: A Uniquely Ohio Solution to Ohio’s Dental Care Crisis

Flyer: Ohio’s Oral Health is in Decay

Click to read about our Endorsers & Sponsors

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