Online Dental Therapy Resource Launched
A nonprofit foundation has launched a website designed to provide information about dental therapy for consumers, health care professionals, and policymakers.
The website, which was developed by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, includes an extensive library of articles, infographics, and videos explaining how dental therapy, which involves the provision of general dental procedures by qualified professionals, improves access to quality dental care and lowers the cost of dental procedures.
Information on Critical Services
Oral health is critical to people’s overall health, yet far too many Americans lack access to affordable dental care, a statement issued by the foundation said.
The resource guide explains that dental therapists provide routine preventative and restorative procedures— such as cleanings, fillings, and simple extractions—under the general supervision of a dentist. This allows dentists to focus on more advanced procedures, such as root canals, gum restoration procedures, and tooth implants, the guide notes.
The site also provides information on dental therapy practices around the world, and it notes that adoption of dental therapy in the United States has been relatively slow. Currently, dental therapists may practice legally only in Alaska, Arizona, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington State.
More Time for Dentists
Matt Glans, a senior policy analyst at The Heartland Institute, which publishes Health Care News, says dental therapists can perform many of the same procedures as dentists.
“Dental therapists are trained to perform 95 of the most common services and procedures dental offices offer,” Glans said. “For comparison’s sake, dental hygienists can perform about 40 of those procedures, and dental assistants about 30. Dental therapists are effectively the second tier in dental care, operating directly beneath dentists.
“A resource like the one launched by the Kellogg Foundation can help provide information to patients who may be looking only for mild dental procedures for their families,” Glans said.
Comparable to Nurse Practitioners
Naomi Lopez Bauman, director of health care policy at the Goldwater Institute, says dental therapy is a bipartisan solution to addressing some of America’s problems related to oral care access and affordability.
“Midlevel providers are extremely effective, and they provide very positive results,” Lopez Bauman said. “You typically see midlevel providers will improve rural access, sometimes treating patients who may have never had access to a dentist before.”
Noting that dental therapists can perform teeth cleanings, drill cavities, and apply crowns, Lopez Bauman says increasing the number of professionals who can perform these services increases access to care and reduces costs.
“Dental Therapy Resource Guide,” W.K. Kellogg Foundation: http:// dentaltherapyresourceguide.wkkf.org.
Naomi Lopez Bauman and John Davidson, “The Reform That
Can Increase Dental Access and Affordability in Arizona,” The Goldwater Institute, September 1, 2017: https://goldwaterinstitute.org/ article/the-reform-that-can-increase-dental-access-and-aff.