States across the country are moving ahead with laws aimed at putting dental therapists to work.
Michigan has become the latest state to approve the use of mid-level dental providers — dental therapists — as part of an effort to expand oral health care to communities that have long lacked it.
Outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation authorizing the new provider model in late December.
In a statement, Snyder said that dental therapists would serve as “a unique tool to target the currently underserved populations in our state.” Continue reading
A bill recently signed into law by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey opens the way for dental therapists to begin providing services in tribal health centers, safety net clinics and other public health settings across the state.
Diverse supporters of the change ranged from health advocacy groups and tribal organizations to the libertarian Goldwater Institute, which issued the report, “The Reform That Can Increase Dental Access and Affordability in Arizona.” Continue reading
Earlier this summer, Gov. Charlie Baker lent his support to a long-running effort to bring a new class of dental providers to Massachusetts.
The governor included language that added dental therapists in a package of measures aimed at containing the rising costs of MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program. Continue reading
In a recent editorial, The Washington Post endorsed the licensing of dental therapists to expand care to millions of Americans who lack it.
“Everyone seems to agree that there is a dental crisis in the United States, particularly among people in poor and rural areas. People who have dental insurance or the means to pay out of pocket can get a high level of care. Those without struggle,” wrote members of the newspaper’s editorial board in the July 14 piece.
In building their case, the Post editors harked back to the 2007 death of Deamonte Driver, a child on Maryland’s Medicaid program who died after his abscessed tooth went untreated. (I covered his story when I worked at the Post).
While Maryland has made some progress in getting more dental care to underserved people, including Medicaid patients, the Post editors noted “the situation across the country has not dramatically improved.” Continue reading
From dental therapists working in clinics in rural Alaska and urban Minnesota to hygienists using telehealth technology in California schools, innovative models are showing promise in getting cost-effective dental care to some of the millions of Americans who now lack it, according to a new study from the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Today’s report, “Expanding the Dental Team,” examines three nonprofit settings where midlevel dental providers are employed as part of larger dental teams. The paper concludes that the workers have successfully expanded services to previously underserved populations; and that their employment is a cost-efficient method of delivering care.
The report offers case studies of a tribal-owned clinic in Alaska; a federally qualified health center in Minneapolis and a telehealth project operated by the University of the Pacific School of Dentistry at sites in California.
Study researchers conducted site visits, interviewed dental team members, clinic administrators and patients and reviewed practice records for the three programs. They found wide variation among the practices but concluded that all three models allowed nonprofits to stretch their funds while providing increase access to care. Continue reading