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Panel Backs Aid To Dentists In Underserved Areas

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Daylina Miller/Health News Florida
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.

A Senate committee Tuesday approved a proposal that supporters hope will help address longstanding shortages of dental care in some areas of Florida.

The bill (SB 234), filed by Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, would create a program to provide financial incentives for dentists to practice in underserved areas and in public-health programs. The dentists would be able to receive money that could be used for purposes such as paying off student loans or helping establish and operate dental practices.

The bill, approved by the Senate Health Policy Committee, ties the issue of dental care to economic development.

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