April 2022 Social Commentary
What do you think about introducing new providers to address access-to-care issues?
Increasing reimbursement rates for dental care in state insurance plans would improve access to care. Many dental offices don’t accept state insurance because they lose money.
We absolutely need midlevel providers in dentistry. It’s done in medicine via physician assistants and nurse practitioners. This would improve access to dental care, solving a public health dilemma.
Dental therapy will help in addition to allowing direct reimbursement to dental hygienists from Medicaid and Medicare.
Introducing dental therapists as an option for dental hygienists would equate to more access to customized care, especially for older adults and those of low socioeconomic status. Creating a way to travel to patients would be such a blessing to our healthcare hearts and, more importantly, to those patients we would be able to serve.
There is no reason not to, but a multitude of reasons why to. Access to oral healthcare should not be dictated by income or zip code. Adding qualified people to the work will ease burdens created in access and improve health outcomes.
Dental therapists can really impact access to care. WHEN we pass our dental therapy bill in Wisconsin, I can’t wait for them to start working in our school-based programs to increase accessibility to restorative care.
Given that only about 50% of Americans currently see a dentist, we need to think of innovative ways to increase access to care. However, we already have highly trained dental hygienists across this country that could be better utilized by removing access-to-care restrictions. Additional providers, such as dental therapists, may also help meet the current needs.
As a dental hygienist in Maine where the dental hygiene therapist has been a viable profession since 2014, I see that the midlevel provider system in dentistry is one of many important routes for improving access to care. Several versions of dental hygiene scope of practice models exist across the United States for dental professionals who want to help patients outside the walls of the traditional setting. As this tiered provider system becomes more normalized, interested dental hygienists and students will be encouraged to increase their didactic knowledge and clinical skills to become this practitioner. Only then will we see the large scale impact this provider will have.
From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. April 2022; 20(4)46.