California State Dental Director Dr. Jayanth Kumar announces retirement

Kumar leaves legacy of creating state’s first oral health plan and expanding state and local programs
April 22, 2024
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The face of a sundial reads "RETIREMENT" At bottom reads "Congratulations, Dr. Kumar"

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

Dr. Kumar’s strong commitment to making oral health a priority in the state’s health agenda has defined his role as state dental director. Working with partners and stakeholders, Kumar has advanced innovative solutions to guide statewide programs and policies in California and throughout the country.

Kumar was appointed by former Gov. Jerry Brown in August 2015, making him California’s first dental director in decades. CDA’s 2012 report Phased Strategies for Reducing the Barriers to Dental Care in California included a long-term vision for a state dental director — and CDA successfully implemented this vision through legislative and budget advocacy.

In his role at the helm of the Office of Oral Health, Kumar collaborated 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 roadmaps for community water fluoridation, school-based interventions, case management models, technical assistance centers and professional training programs for the 10-year period 2018-28.

Medi-Cal Dental improvements, pandemic safety measures

The Office of Oral Health’s work supported the expansion of Medi-Cal Dental benefits and increased provider rates, improvements to the Kindergarten Oral Health Assessment reporting and data collection and increased funding for local oral health initiatives through the Proposition 56 tobacco tax.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, CDA and the Office of Oral Health worked closely together to inform dentists and the public about safety measures, publish resources (such as our Vaccine Confidence Toolkit) and communicate evolving health guidelines. Kumar and CDA collaborated on improvements to the care of pregnant patients, which several state and national organizations have replicated.

Partnership with CDA Foundation to expand clinic rotation sites through grant program

Under Kumar, the Office of Oral Health also partnered with the CDA Foundation to administer a $10 million grant program to expand clinical rotation sites in dental health professional shortage areas throughout the state. CDA advocated for the program funding in the 2022-23 state budget, and the Foundation has already awarded the grant to three dental schools. The Foundation will continue working with dental schools to add more sites.

CDA extends its sincere gratitude to Dr. Kumar for his monumental contributions to the dental profession and all Californians. We wish him well in retirement, and we look forward to working with the next state dental director to continue our strong collaboration with the Office of Oral Health and commitment to improve the public’s oral health.

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