Dental therapists are a proven tool to help expand access and prevent this unnecessary spending.
Akin to nurse practitioners and physician assistants (PAs) in medicine, dental therapists will complete advanced education to deliver routine preventive and restorative care from accredited dental therapy educational programs. Before entering practice they will successfully pass all required examinations and follow all guidelines to work under the general supervision of a dentist.
This expansion of the dental team will enable dental therapists to bring care directly to people in schools, nursing homes, and other community settings. They are currently permitted in six US states and more than 50 countries.
How dental therapists can help:
First, dental therapists incentivize dentists to treat more people on Medicaid. Because they earn lower salaries, practices that employ dental therapists have lower costs for delivering care. The result is more Medicaid access, higher practice revenues, greater value for Florida taxpayers and no less control over quality of care.
Second, the dental therapist’s ability to deliver care in community-based settings enables interventions long before someone reaches the emergency room. Community-based dental care is already happening in Florida, but when these providers see a tooth that needs a filling they cannot treat it. They can only refer the patient to a dentist. These types of cases can end up in an emergency department, where the cost is much greater.
It is important to note that it is completely up to a dentist if he or she wants to hire a dental therapist. If and how they practice is entirely at the discretion of the state’s dentists.
Dental Therapists Help Dentists Extend Care To More People
Minnesota and Alaska now have dental therapists who are similar to physician assistants or nurse practitioners in the medical field and can provide preventive and routine treatment such as fillings and simple extractions. Dental therapists work under the supervision of a dentist and help extend routine care to people who currently don’t have access, such as children, the poor, and the elderly.
Dental therapists have been shown to help dentists see more patients, decrease travel and appointment wait times, increase productivity, increase patient satisfaction and lower no-show rates. Dental therapists are highly educated and well-trained professionals and like dental hygienists, dentists can hire and supervise dental therapists and can supervise the procedures they are allowed to perform.
In Florida, dental therapists could work in a wide variety of settings, for example in rural areas and federally qualified health centers. Dental therapist could also work on mobile programs, serving children in schools, and seniors in nursing homes and assisted living centers. With a dental therapist providing more routine care, a dentist would have greater availability for more complex cases and advanced treatment such as dentures, dental implants, veneers, and crown & bridge.
Who are Dental Therapists?
- Dental Therapists typically represent the community they serve. They provide safe, high-quality care.
- Dental Therapists are trained to deliver basic but critically necessary care to all with a focus on underserved populations.
- Dental therapists are midlevel providers similar to physician assistants in medicine, and deliver preventive and routine restorative care. They are highly educated, well trained, and tested professionals—and like dental hygienists and dental assistants, dentists may hire and supervise them.
- Dental therapists are not a threat to dentists nor to the quality of care provided to patients. HB 649 and SB 684 will allow dental therapists to increase a practice’s revenue and allow dentists more opportunity to focus on more complex procedures.
Dental Therapists provide safe, high-quality care.
- Experience in 50+ countries, AK, and MN, shows that allowing dentists to hire dental therapists can extend care to more rural, low-income, and uninsured patients.
- Over 1,100 studies and assessments indicate that dental therapists provide high-quality care, and actuaries set malpractice insurance rates in Minnesota at just $93/year because their number crunching demonstrates dental therapists are safe.
- Compared to a general dentist who can perform about 400 procedures, a dental therapist can do 94. This limited focus allows for a high degree of specialization in those procedures.
- Dental therapists are trained on a limited scope of procedures to the same level as a dentist, and research shows that dental therapists provide high-quality care, comparable to dentists for procedures both can do.
- The Commission on Dental Accreditation, which is housed at the American Dental Association and considered the gold standard for dental education programs (including those for dentists), approved educational standards for dental therapists in 2015, after several years of careful meticulous research and study.