About Us

The need to improve access to oral health care in Michigan is not a new issue.  Despite efforts, the lack of access persists for many populations in our state.  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.


Licensing dental therapists to practice in Michigan will help the numerous populations in our state who remain underserved.


The Michigan Council for Maternal and Child Health (MCMCH) and its partners are working to further evidence-based, cost effective policy solutions to improve access to oral health services. 

How We Got Here

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.


Michigan has the opportunity to be a national leader in addressing its oral health needs through this innovative, cost-saving solution.


The Road to Bringing Dental Therapy to Michigan

Michigan's Dental Therapy Licensing Rules

In April 2021, Michigan's dental therapy licensing rules were approved, making dental therapy its newest licensed profession

Michigan's Dental Therapy Bill

SB 541 was enacted with Governor Rick Snyder's signature on December 27, 2018, establishing Public Act 463 of 2018.


Legislative History

Sen. Mike Shirkey (R- Clarklake) introduced Senate Bill 541 to address significant gaps in access to oral health services across the state by licensing dental therapists to practice in Michigan. SB 541 will allow dentists to treat more patients by hiring dental therapists, similar to a physician assistant on a medical team, to provide preventive and routine restorative care such as filling cavities. 


Michigan has an uneven distribution of dentists, resulting in a shortage of dental providers in many rural and urban communities.  77 out of Michigan’s 83 counties have at least one dental shortage area, leaving millions of residents without access to necessary oral care. SB 541 will expand oral health care especially to vulnerable people, including seniors, pregnant women, children and people living in rural areas. 


“Expanding the dental team to include a dental therapist could improve overall access to oral health care for underserved patients while allowing dentists to increase their revenues and modernize and expand their practices,” said Sen. Shirkey. “When people cannot get dental care, they often resort to emergency rooms for relief which costs Michigan taxpayers money. Relying on emergency rooms doesn’t alleviate patients’ underlying problems and places an unfair burden on taxpayers.”


Access to dental care is limited or nonexistent for millions of Michigan residents:

•      More than one-third of all Michigan seniors have lost six or more natural teeth due to tooth decay or gum disease. 

•      Half of new mothers in 2014 did not receive a preventative dental visit during their pregnancy. Research shows gum disease can increase the risk of preterm birth.

•      Approximately half of the kids covered by Medicaid or Healthy Kids Dental did not receive dental services in 2016.


PA 463 increases the number of highly trained professionals able to perform these basic procedures under the supervision of a dentist and allow dentists to focus their time and skills on more complicated procedures.

MI Dental Access Coalition Supporters

AARP Michigan

The Arc Michigan


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

Samantha Mishler

RoseAnn Schihl, RDH, BS

Misty Davis, RDH, BS


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Your support will help advance dental therapy in Michigan and improve access to care!



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