With dental care in short supply and oral disease rates high on tribal lands, Native American leader Brian Cladoosby recently announced that his Swinomish Indian Tribal Community in Washington state will begin employing midlevel dental providers to offer preventive and restorative services to the tribe.
The Dental Health Aide Therapist (DHAT) model that the tribe has endorsed has been used in many parts of the world, including Alaskan tribal areas, as a way of expanding services in poor, isolated and minority communities. Continue reading
Mid-level dental providers are at work in countries from the United Kingdom to Malaysia. Here in the United States, advocates are pushing hard to get states to enact laws that would open the way for dental therapists to get care to people who might otherwise go without it.
Organized dental groups, including the American Dental Association have fought the model, contending that only dentists have the training to perform what are termed irreversible procedures such as drilling and extracting teeth.
Even so, dental therapists, who provide care under the general supervision of dentists, are now treating patients in tribal areas of Alaska as well as in poor communities in the state of Minnesota. Maine has also passed legislation and is moving forward with therapists.
Meanwhile, other states are considering the model. Is yours one of them?
There is a lot going on in this area to write about, so this seems like a good time to offer a tip sheet that features some of the latest coverage and resources that might help you explore this topic.
Image by University of the Fraser Valley via flickr.
There are more than 300,000 dental assistants at work across America and their ranks are expected to increase 25 percent in the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as a result of the recognition of the link between oral health and overall health.
Their work often includes helping dentists with procedures, taking and developing X-rays, preparing and sterilizing instruments, making appointments, keeping records, and giving patients post-operative instructions.
But, from state to state, duties, credentialing, and training standards vary widely.
Oral health topic leader Mary Otto provides some background, the latest news on what’s happening in various states and links in a new tip sheet to help reporters learn what changes may be in the works in their state – just in time for Dental Assistants Recognition Week, March 2-8. It might be an opportunity to take a look at this changing profession and write about what dental assistants are doing in your state.
We get inundated with reports and issue papers, but every once in a while it’s a good idea to pick one up, review what you know and figure out what you have to learn.
A recent report, “Cracking the Code on Health Care Costs” from a state health cost containment commission organized by the University of Virginia’s Miller Center turned out to be useful for that purpose. It didn’t offer me any brand-spanking new huge ideas but it pulled a lot of trends and data together in one (nonpartisan) place – everything from malpractice reform to end-of-life care, and how they can be addressed at the state level.
If you are an experienced health care reporter, the state sections can still give you some story ideas. If you are a newbie, the report is a pretty good and readable overview. Read the executive summary and then follow up on areas that interest you for stories.
Here are five story ideas I came up with in just a few minutes of looking at the report – you will be able to think of dozens more that affect your community. Continue reading
In November’s Health Affairs, Conan Murat explored his experiences as a dental health aide therapist (DHAT), providing care to his fellow native Alaskans in remote villages on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.
Recently, Murat was in Washington, D.C., to join a crowd of oral health advocates who say technically trained dental providers could help answer the need for care in many other poor and isolated communities across the United States.
“This whole movement thing seems like it’s really starting to get going,” noted Murat, looking out over the crowd at the Dental Therapist Conference Convening, hosted by Community Catalyst, a national nonprofit promoting grassroots efforts to change the health care system.
Organized dental groups have fought hard against the therapist model in recent years, saying no one but dentists should be allowed to drill cavities and extract teeth. Continue reading
Conan Murat, one of Alaska’s first dental health aide therapists, provides a first-person perspective on providing oral health care to his fellow Native Alaskans on the isolated Yukon-Kuskokwim delta in this month’s issue of Health Affairs.
One of the perks of belonging to the Association of Health Care Journalists is free access to online versions of a number of useful journals. Health Affairs is one of those and the November issue is dedicated to the theme of “Redesigning the Health Care Workforce.”
In one piece, “How to Close the Physician Gap,” the authors suggest that registered nurses and pharmacists could help address the disparity between the demand for primary care services and the number of physicians available to provide the care. Another looks at meeting growing health care needs through the wider use of nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
But Murat’s piece weighs in on another health care workforce issue that touches the lives of millions of Americans: the shortage of dental providers. Continue reading