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A new national survey finds that millions of Americans cannot findaffordable dental care in their communities and many want to exploremidlevel providers as a way to improve their access to needed oralhealth care. The survey, conducted by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, polled 1,023 adults.

Forty-one percent of Americans reported that they or someone in theirhousehold has put off dental care because of the cost, and 30% said theydo not have a place to receive dental care. While respondents valuedregular dental care, 40% reported that they lacked dental insurance.

In addition, more than 80% believed it is difficult for people to getfree or low-cost dental care in their communities, and thought thenumber of Americans who cannot access dental care is a problem.

With close to 50 million Americans living in federally designateddentist shortage areas, the majority of respondents said they supportmidlevel dental providers like dental therapists to help fill thenation’s shortage gaps.

Several states are looking to bring the Alaska-based midlevel dentalprogram model to their own communities as a way to expand access tocare. This survey reveals public support and confirms need for such aprogram.

In November 2010, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation launched a majorinitiative to improve access to dental care for vulnerable populations.The foundation is currently working with Ohio, New Mexico, Kansas,Washington, and Vermont to establish dental therapists to help expandaccess to needed dental care. More than a dozen states are consideringsimilar options.