oral_health_CaliforniaThe California legislature has approved a new state budget plan that includes funding for a state dental director and an epidemiologist in the Department of Public Health to establish and implement a state oral health program. The dental director must be a licensed dentist.

The 2014-2015 budget, which still needs the governor’s signatures, provides $474,000 in funding for the first year to assess oral health needs in the state, develop and manage a state oral health plan, and apply for and manage federal and private grants to support oral health. The governor had proposed this funding in his April budget revisions.

A statement from California Dental Association (CDA) President James Stephens, DDS, called the funding, “the most impactful state oral health achievement in decades.” He added, “CDA members have collectively worked for and supported the establishment of a state dental director for many years. This is a significant step toward addressing the oral health care crisis facing millions of Californians through coordinated state oral health education and preventive programs led by a dental director and partnered with care provided by dentists across the state.”

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

In addition to developing and implementing a state oral health plan, the dental director’s role 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.