California State Dental Director Dr. Jayanth Kumar announces retirement


Kumar leaves legacy of creating state's first oral health program and expanding state and local programs

Quick summary:Jayanth Kumar, DDS, MPH, has announced his retirement from the California Department of Public Health after nearly nine years as state dental director. Dr. Kumar has made oral health a priority on the state’s health agenda and works with partners and stakeholders to guide statewide programs and policies in California and across the country. Read on to learn about some of his accomplishments.

Dr. Kumar’s strong commitment to making oral health a priority on the state health agenda defines his role as State Dental Director. Kumar works with partners and stakeholders to develop advanced, innovative solutions that guide statewide programs and policies in California and across the country.

Kumar was appointed by former Gov. Jerry Brown in August 2015, becoming California's first dental director in decades. CDA's 2012 report, A Phased Strategy to Reduce Barriers to Dental Care in California, included a long-term vision for the state dental director—a vision that CDA successfully implemented through legislative and budget advocacy.

While serving as director of the Office of Oral Health, Kumar worked with CDA and other stakeholders to lead the development of California's first state oral health plan to address challenging issues in disease prevention and access to dental care, including community water fluoridation. The school-based intervention measures, case management models, technical assistance centers and professional training programs for the 10-year period of 2018-28.

Medi-Cal dental plan improvements, pandemic safety measures

The Office of Oral Health's work supports expanding Medi-Cal dental benefits and increasing provider rates, improving kindergarten oral health assessment reporting and data collection, and increasing funding for local oral health programs through the Proposition 56 tobacco tax.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, CDA and the Office of Oral Health have worked closely to inform dentists and the public about safety measures, publish resources (such as our Vaccine Confidence Toolkit), and communicate changing health guidance. Kumar and CDA collaborated to improve care for pregnant patients, and several state and national organizations have followed suit.

Partner with CDA Foundation to expand clinic rotation locations through grant program

Under Kumar's leadership, the Office of Oral Health is also working with the CDA Foundation to administer a $10 million grant program to expand clinical rotation sites in areas with a shortage of dental health professionals across the state. CDA has advocated for funding for the program in the 2022-23 state budget, and the foundation has awarded grants to three dental schools. The foundation will continue to work with dental schools to add additional sites.

The CDA expresses its sincere gratitude to Dr. Kumar for his tremendous contributions to the dental profession and all Californians. We wish him well in his retirement and we look forward to working with the next State Dental Director to continue working closely with the Office of Oral Health and working to improve the public's oral health.

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