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Sustaining Forward Momentum

Dimensions of Dental Hygiene’s annual supplement, Perspectives on the Midlevel Practitioner, is one of my favorite issues of the year.

Dimensions of Dental Hygiene’s annual supplement, Perspectives on the Midlevel Practitioner, is one of my favorite issues of the year. As a dental hygienist who practiced for more than 25 years, I saw firsthand the consequences of going without regular dental care. This year, as the country continues to deal with significant access-to-care issues, we focus on some innovative solutions—direct access and dental therapy.

Today, dental hygienists in almost every state (there are eight holdouts) have direct access to patients. This means dental hygienists can provide care directly to patients without the direct supervision of a dentist. From applying sealants in a school-based oral health program to performing prophylaxes in correctional facilities, direct access increases the ability of vulnerable populations to receive professional dental care to improve their oral health.

As Minnesota celebrates the 9th anniversary of dental therapy in the state, outcomes continue to show that the midlevel practitioner model makes a difference when it comes to access to care. Today, nearly 100 dental therapists are providing care to underserved patients in the state. In addition to Minnesota—Arizona, Maine, Vermont, and tribal lands in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington have instituted the dental therapist model. New legislation on the addition of a midlevel oral health practitioner is being debated in several states, including Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, and Washington (to expand dental therapy beyond tribal areas). Dental therapy legislation is also expected to be introduced in New Mexico and Wisconsin.

Dental hygienists are prevention specialists and it’s no surprise they are leading the cause to improve access to dental care for our nation’s most vulnerable residents. I hope you enjoy this issue as much as I do.

 

From Perspectives on the Midlevel Practitioner, a supplement to Dimensions of Dental HygieneOctober 2018;5(10):8.

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