Thursday, May 22, 2014

Dental Therapist Trying to Fill the Gap

There is an oral health care crisis in many states throughout the U.S. In rural areas many are underserved and therefore develop many oral health issues. There is a lack of dentists and the dentists that are already licensed frequently do not want to move to extremely rural areas where there is the most need. To fill in this need some states have turned to licensing dental therapists. These therapists are similar to physicians’ assistants in the medical field. They go through two years of intensive training and then they are able to do routine check-ups, cleanings, extractions, fillings, and pediatric steel crowns. The states that have already licensing these therapists include Minnesota, Alaska, and Maine. States that are working on the legislation to allow dental therapists include Vermont, New Mexico, and Kansas.

The advantages of licensing dental therapist include servicing the many people who live in rural areas and never get to see a dentist. Those who live in these areas are more likely to develop dental problems because they don’t have regular check-ups and cleanings. Also, if there is a serious dental issue, it usually goes unresolved until it is too late and they end up in the emergency room, rather than having it dealt with earlier by a dental professional. In 2009 the Pew Research Center reported that over 830,000 emergency room visits were due to preventable dental conditions.

Even though dental therapists are filling a great void in the dental care industry, dentists and the American Dental Association are taking a firm stand against states allowing the licensing of dental therapists. They have been lobbying hard against it in every state that the issue comes up. In a statement the ADA said that they do, “not consider the one-size-fits-all mid-level dental provider model to be a viable solution to the diverse set of barriers that impede million from getting dental care.” Although the ADA is trying to protect the dentists that are their members, it has been shown that dental therapists that work for dentists in their private practices actually boost income just like hiring dental hygienists. In reality, the more people that are trained to help others with their dental health needs, the healthier our country will be.

No comments:

Post a Comment