Calif. may get dental director

California Gov. Jerry Brown has included funding for a state dental director in his new budget, a goal that the California Dental Association (CDA) has actively pursued for years.

The new budget calls for ongoing funding for a state dental director, who must be a licensed dentist, and an epidemiologist in the Department of Public Health to establish a state oral health program, the CDA said.

The program, which will receive $474,000 the first year, will include assessing oral health needs, developing and managing a state oral health plan, and applying for and managing federal and private grants to support oral health -- funding that California is not currently taking advantage of.

"Partnered with care provided by dentists across the state, the coordinated state oral health education and preventive programs led by a dental director will have a far-reaching impact on improving oral health for Californians," said CDA President James Stephens, DDS.

CDA made the establishment of a dental director the top priority of its access-to-care plan, Phased Strategies for Reducing the Barriers to Dental Care in California. The report was developed in 2011 as a comprehensive strategic approach to reducing barriers to oral healthcare for vulnerable Californians.

The dental director will "create a high-level point of contact within the administration on dental health issues" and be specifically charged with developing a burden of disease report, leading the collaborative process to create a state oral health plan and managing ongoing implementation of that plan. The position will also include establishing prevention and oral health literacy projects, and working to secure funding for prevention-focused oral health and essential disease prevention services, particularly for children.

The Legislature must approve a budget by June 15, which will take effect July 1.

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