Access to dental care is limited or nonexistent for millions of Michigan residents. Seniors, pregnant women, low-income children, and other special populations are most at-risk for poor oral health. Oral health needs are more severe in certain parts of the state: there is a maldistribution of dentists across the state leaving large portions of rural and urban areas with dental shortages.
Many people cannot receive dental care because they are uninsured or dentists do not accept public insurance. When people cannot get regular, routine dental care, they often resort to emergency rooms for relief of serious, complicated oral health conditions. This costs Michigan taxpayers money and often doesn’t alleviate patients’ underlying medical problems.
The Michigan Council for Maternal and Child Health (MCMCH) is working to improve oral health and access to dental care in Michigan. Throughout 2015 MCMCH engaged a variety of
stakeholders on potential policy solutions to Michigan's access challenges. While much was heard about reimbursement needs, the primary policy change mentioned was the need to explore additional
workforce models. In October 2016 a delegation of dentists, hygienists, state agency staff and key stakeholders from Michigan visited Minnesota to learn more about the dental therapist model
currently authorized there.
As a result of the trip and discussions to date, Senate 541 was introduced in September 2017 to create a midlevel provider. This common-sense legislation will allow dentists to hire dental therapists to provide routine care – like filling cavities – under their supervision. These providers, similar to physician assistants on medical teams, give dentists the flexibility to modernize and expand their practices in a financially sustainable way, while also treating more patients who otherwise would not have access to dental care.
Three states have authorized these providers and at least a dozen other states are considering legislation to expand their dental teams. Michigan has the opportunity to be a national leader in addressing its oral health needs through this innovative, cost-saving solution.
AARP Michigan The Arc Michigan LeadingAge Michigan Association of Health Plans Michigan Association of School Nurses Michigan Association of United Ways Michigan’s Children Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness Michigan Community Action
Michigan Council for Maternal and Child Health Michigan Dental Hygienists’ Association Michigan Disability Rights Coalition Michigan League for Public Policy Michigan Primary Care Association National Association of Social Workers-Michigan School-Community Health Alliance of Michigan Wolverine Dental Hygienists’ Society Wolverine Human Services
Lynda Gregorini, RDH
Anne Gwozdek, RDH, BA, MA
Jane Halaris RDH, BS, MA
James K. Haveman Jr.
Mailan Hudson, RDH
Annette Jackson, RDH, BS, MCTEc
Lorene Kline, RDH, BSDH
RoseAnn Schihl, RDH, BS