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Proposal Seeks To Help Dentists In Underserved Areas

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Daylina Miller/Health News Florida
The Florida Channel
Jenna Pascoli, a third-year dental student at the The Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine School of Dental Medicine in Bradenton, treats a student at the school's clinic. She's one of many dental students struggling with high student loan debt.

A House Republican on Friday proposed creation of a program that would offer financial help to dentists who practice in underserved areas.

The bill (HB 139), filed by Rep. Travis Cummings, R-Orange Park, will be considered during the 2016 legislative session and follows years of discussion about a lack of dentists in some low-income parts of the state.

Cummings' bill would lead to the creation of "dental care access accounts," which would include state and local funds.

Dentists who agree to practice in underserved areas could use money from the accounts for such expenses as repayment of dental-school student loans and investment in dental-office facilities and equipment.

"The Legislature recognizes that maintaining good oral health is integral to overall health status and that the good health of residents of this state is an important contributing factor in economic development,'' the bill says.

"Better health, including better oral health, enables workers to be more productive, reduces the burden of health care costs, and improves the cognitive development of children."