Earlier this month the Michigan Council for Maternal and Child Health hosted a webinar--Dental Therapists: What Mid-level Providers Could Mean for Your Practice--and invited dentists throughout the state to learn more about dental therapists, their training and how can they be integrated into dental practices.
Dr. Frank Catalanotto, DMD, from the Department of Community Dentistry and Behavioral Science at the University of Florida, and Dr. John Powers, DDS, owner of Main Street Dental Care in Montevideo, Minnesota were our featured speakers, who shared their own experiences with dental therapy and took questions from participants.
Americans overwhelmingly support the concept of dental therapists, according to the results of a recent phone survey. Interviewers asked thousands of registered U.S. voters if they would like a new type of midlevel provider similar to a nurse practitioner, and 80% of respondents said yes.
The survey, which was conducted by Lake Research Partners and funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, reached 2,400 adults who voted in the 2016 U.S. elections. The results are almost identical to a 2011 poll that also found about 80% of adults supported the concept of dental therapists.
"Overall, it's a concept that people get," said Tera Bianchi, the Dental Access Project director at Community Catalyst, in an interview with DrBicuspid.com. Community Catalyst is nonprofit advocacy organization focused on healthcare that has partnered with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation on the Dental Access Project, which advocates for the use of dental therapists for low-income and rural populations.
Read more of this article from Dr.Biscuspid.com using the download link below.
On September 20, 2016 Senate Bill 1013 was discussed in the Senate Health Policy Committee, with dental professionals and educators from Minnesota on hand to share their experiences thus far with dental therapy, along with advocates and dentists from Michigan who discussed why licensing dental therapists to practice in our state could increase access to oral health care for underserved, at-risk populations.
Access to dental care is limited or nonexistent for millions of Michigan residents, creating serious oral health care issues that can lead to tooth loss, pain and potential life-long ramifications. There is at least one dental shortage area in 77 of Michigan’s 83 counties.
Senate Bill 1013 will allow dentists to hire dental therapists, leading to better oral health care in areas where state data shows routine dental care is limited or nonexistent.
This common-sense, cost-effective legislation, introduced by Sen. Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), will enable dentists to delegate routine procedures to dental therapists working under their supervision, and allow dentists to focus their time and skills on more complicated procedures.
Dental therapists are similar to physician assistants on medical teams, and are well trained to perform routine dental procedures currently only performed by dentists, such as filling cavities.
Minnesota, Maine, Vermont and tribal governments in Alaska, Washington, and Oregon allow dentists to hire these midlevel providers. Fifteen other states are considering similar bills. Michigan now has the opportunity to be a national leader in addressing its oral health needs through this innovative, cost-effective solution.
For decades, disparities in oral health have existed due to barriers to access, including a misdistribution of dental providers, a shortage of dentists in Michigan who accept Medicaid and a lack
of dentists who specialize in populations such as children, special needs adults and senior citizens. Other barriers to oral health care include lack of transportation, delays in getting appointments
during a dental emergency, and lack of awareness of parents and caregivers about the importance of oral health care.
MCMCH and its partners are working to develop evidence-based, cost-effective policy solutions to improve oral health access in Michigan. To learn more about our work, visit the About page.