The approaches vary from state to state, but the new year is bringing renewed efforts to broaden access to dental services to millions of Americans who have long lacked care.
In many places, the need is particularly acute among poor adults. Across America, roughly 38 million of them rely upon Medicaid for a broad range of health care benefits. But while children are entitled to dental care under Medicaid, adult dental benefits are considered an optional part of the program. Continue reading
Residents of Alaskan tribal communities regularly served by dental therapists are receiving more preventive care and experiencing fewer tooth extractions than people living in communities without these dental workers, a peer-reviewed study has concluded.
Researchers for the study, published online by the Journal of Public Health Dentistry, analyzed 10 years’ worth of Medicaid and electronic health records data for patients served by the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation, part of a tribal health system that provides care to thousands of Alaska Natives. Continue reading
The debate over dental therapists continues to roil state houses across the country.
Many organized dental groups contend the technically trained providers lack the skills to perform irreversible procedures such as drilling teeth. Meanwhile, public health and grassroots supporters of a wider use of dental therapists contend that this is a good way to get cost-effective, badly needed care to poor, underserved and rural communities.
Dental therapists have been providing care in Alaskan tribal areas for more than a decade. In 2009, Minnesota became the first state to adopt the model for use statewide. Continue reading
In a three-sentence brief, WCAX-Burlington, Vt., got out the big news:
“Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont, signed a law meant to expand dental care in Vermont. It creates the position of dental therapist, who is not a full dentist is able to do more than a hygienist.
“Advocates say the law will help address a shortage of basic dental care, especially in rural areas and for lower income people.”
A recent news package in The Seattle Times by reporter Will Drabold took a look at how the controversy over dental therapists is unfolding in the state of Washington.
Drabold examined the challenges faced by poor Medicaid patients in seeking dental care. He spoke with health care advocates who believe that technically-trained mid-level providers could bring much-needed care to poor and isolated communities. He also interviewed tribal leader Brian Cladoosby, whose Swinomish tribe had just defied state restrictions to hire a dental therapist. And he spoke with state dental association officials, who made it clear that they – like the American Dental Association – believe dental therapists lack the training to perform these expanded duties. Continue reading
Photo: Dana via FlickrThe Swinomish Indian Tribal Community defends its recent hiring of a dental therapist as an act of tribal sovereignty, despite continued resistance from the dental community.
A recent news package in the Seattle Times detailed the challenges faced by poor Medicaid patients in seeking dental care.
Now members of the newspaper’s editorial board are calling for reforms they say would improve access to dental services in the state.
“Too many of Washington’s residents insured by Medicaid are not able to get the dental care they need, which endangers their general health as well,” they wrote in the editorial.
“Two simple things should be considered to improve the situation. The state could explore licensing dental therapists, who can provide limited basic services at a much lower cost than dentists,” the editors noted. “The other is to begin increasing Medicaid reimbursement rates, at least for certain patients, especially those at risk for costly health complications.” Continue reading