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Dental Therapists: A Free-Market Approach to Expanding Access to Care

August 1, 2016
By Jane Koppelman, Children's Dental Campaign, The Pew Charitable Trusts

A presentation on dental therapy to the James Madison Institute.

Health Care News reported in its November 2016 print issue:

John Grant, director of the dental campaign at Pew Charitable Trusts, says opponents of dental therapy unfairly criticize the profession as creating a two-tiered system of care, “one for patients who can afford to see a dentist, and another for poor patients and those on Medicaid who will see a dental therapist.”

Opponents fail to notice countless patients lack any access to oral care, regardless of quality, Grant says.

“In the larger picture, there are already two tiers of care: those who can afford to get care and the tens of millions who can’t,” Grant said.

Gritting Their Teeth

Opposition to dental therapy will eventually turn into enthusiasm for the profession, Grant says.

“When physician assistants were first introduced, they were similarly opposed by doctors’ trade organizations,” Grant said. “Now most doctors can’t imagine working without them. Many dentists in Alaska and Minnesota who were originally opposed to hiring a dental therapist are now very happy to have them as part of their team. These dentists have grown their practices and are able to treat more patients.”

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