Photo: Legislative Support ServicesBrian Cladoosby, president of the National Congress of American Indians and chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, speaks at the February 22 bill signing for Washington state’s SB 5079 which increases access to affordable dental care. Behind him are Sen. John McCoy, left, and Gov. Jay Inslee, right.
Kathy Hoekstra’s beat covering national regulatory issues for the public interest news organization Watchdog.org, now has led her to America’s dental divide.
In recent months, Hoekstra has focused on the legal angle to examine the dental therapist debate now roiling in statehouses across the country.
Dental therapists often are compared to nurse practitioners in the medical world. Trained in a narrow range of preventive and restorative procedures and employed in some countries around the globe, they have attracted supporters among U.S. oral health advocates who see the speciality as an affordable means to expand access to dental services for millions of Americans who currently lack routine care. Continue reading
In spite of progress getting better dental care to more children in recent years, it is estimated that more than one-third of Americans still face challenges in getting the oral health services they need.
Lack of money or insurance to pay for care, a shortage of providers in many communities, and challenges with mobility and transportation continue to pose formidable barriers, according to a recent brief from the Pew Charitable Trusts. Continue reading
An aging population isn’t just a challenge for providers and policymakers in the U.S. – it’s an issue most nations contend with. Experts participating in last week’s webinar from The Commonwealth Fund, Health and Health Care Among Older Adults in 11 Countries, confirm that finding the right balance between clinical and social services, cost-effectiveness and promoting aging in place is tricky, no matter what health system is in place.
The webinar featured key findings from The Commonwealth Fund’s latest International Health Policy Survey, which examined consumer opinions of health systems and care delivery. Experts from France, the United Kingdom and the U.S. provided perspective on the issues. This previous blog post summarizes survey results. Continue reading
Elizabeth Piatt begins the narrative of her reluctant journey into the Medicaid dental care system this way:
“In the spring of 2010 a terribly infected tooth forced my sister, Veronika, to the emergency department (ED). This story began, however, several months before. It is flica story of Medicaid, access to the best care, information and misinformation, and the gap between the haves and the have-nots.”
Piatt’s piece, “Navigating Veronica: How Access, Knowledge and Attitudes Shaped My Sister’s Care” was featured in February’s Health Affairs. (AHCJ members have free access to Health Affairs.)
Piatt, an assistant professor and chair of the Sociology Department at Hiram College in Hiram Ohio, brings a social scientist’s eye and a story-teller’s flair to the tale. Continue reading
Hundreds of thousands of adults and children in Colorado will soon get dental coverage thanks to health care reform efforts in the state.
But many of these new beneficiaries may have trouble finding a dentist to treat them, writes Michael Booth in a good story for The Denver Post, “Flood of new dental patients in Colorado meets trickle of caregivers.”
“A new dental benefit for adults with Medicaid, coupled with an Obamacare expansion of eligibility and pediatric benefits required on the state exchange, will balloon the number of paying patients,” he explains.
“About 335,000 current Medicaid adults gain access to dental care in the spring, and tens of thousands more will join Medicaid rolls under the Affordable Care Act expansion. Added to them will be potentially thousands of privately insured children with dental care included under “essential benefits” minimums of the state health exchange.”
But health advocates warn that if just a quarter of the newly enrolled Coloradans start using their dental benefits, the system will be strained. Continue reading
Dental therapists have the potential to expand access to oral health care, though opponents (such as the American Dental Association) argue that only dentists should perform surgical procedures such as restorations and extractions.
The rules around what dental therapists can do depend on the state. Minnesota authorized the licensing of dental therapists in 2009. But dental health aide therapists started providing care in Alaskan villages in 2005. Working under the general supervision of dentists, DHATS provide access to care to more than 40,000 Alaska Natives, many of them living in remote and isolated areas.
We’ve updated the oral health core topic area with more information about dental therapists.
There are new entries in the glossary, key concepts section and some data that looks at New Zealand’s use of dental therapists, where they’ve been practicing since 1921, and explores use of the model in the United States.
It’s worth seeing what the rules are in your state and whether there is a movement to allow dental therapists to provide more care. Check and see if there are “Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas” near you and talk to health professionals about whether dental therapists might improve access to care.