The Dentist and Non-dentist Dilemma

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Going to a Dental Therapist for Tooth Extraction?

There’s this buzz among a handful of states in the US and in many countries outside North America about considering dental therapists and hygienists to do a dentist’s job. Some public health advocates are looking to non-dentists, who are however advanced in their hygiene and therapy practices, to fill in the gaps where very few dentists are found. These are in the areas of dental care for low-income people, and those who are disabled and elderly. It is also occurs in some areas that many dentists do not accept Medicaid disability benefits for dental care owing to low reimbursement rates. Where do these folks go to if they need quality professional attention for their oral issues?

From out of Boston, Ma, dentists there, through their lobbyists, are willing to consider the concept for the first time – looking at competent and well-trained hygienists and therapists to do dental procedures that are normally a dentist’s domain. Naturally so, many other dentists oppose this view based on concerns over safety and supervision. Boston says that it recorded about 36,000 ER visits in 2014 alone of preventable oral issues that cost $36 million for the health care system. It would have been tremendous savings if dental hygienists/therapists been able to directly deal with the issues.

Massachusetts dentists filed a bill in January allowing limited use of public health dental practitioners in this regard. Practitioners will be required to have at least two years of post-graduate level training and restrict them to serving only Medicaid patients or residents of “underserved” counties with a documented shortage of dentists. It also provides that a dentist be on hand for supervision in delicate cases, such as tooth extractions.

From all over the country, we have Alaska that has allowed dental therapists to work in tribal areas since 2004; two other New England states, Maine in 2014 and Vermont in 2016, have since joined Minnesota in authorizing statewide programs. Proposals also are being considered in Arizona, Connecticut, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio and Texas.

Maybe Washington state will embrace the concept soon as well. In the meantime, if you are around Federal Way, you’ve got a complete complement of dental staff practicing excellent Federal Way dentistry.

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