Local dental clinic says it would benefit from Evers' dental proposal

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Governor Tony Evers announced budget plans on Monday to improve dental care for kids in K-12 and low-income families.

His budget will include a $43 million investment to expand dental access across the state.

Dental hygienists at CVTC’s dental clinic say they, along with other area clinics, could benefit from the initiatives laid out in his proposal.

“I think there's a great need for the underserved, said 2nd-year dental hygiene student, Jennifer Lehto. “There definitely is an access to care issue across the whole state.”

The governor's proposal would increase the number of low-income dental clinics eligible to receive grant funding.

“There's a huge need for people who are low income or have Badger Care or Medicaid because they are traditionally not seen in private offices - mainly because the office's overhead is so high and the reimbursement rate is so low,” said Pam Entorf, dental hygiene program director at CVTC.

The proposal will also seek to give incentive to providers serving in rural areas by expanding the rural dental loan repayment program.

Entorf says CVTC serves more than 20 counties in the area, including rural and underserved areas. She said current students there cannot benefit from that repayment program.

“Because we're not located in a designated shortage area, even though we treat people from all those counties, any of the dental residents that work here or fellows don't get to partake in that,” said Entorf.

The budget would also include an expansion of the seal-a-smile program, which provides preventative services for children in the K-12 school system.

According to data published by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the most updated estimate of dental shortages shows that 204 dental providers are needed to remove health shortage area designations in Wisconsin.