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About Dental Therapy

Dental therapists are highly-trained oral health care providers who work under the supervision and management of licensed dentists to provide preventive and routine restorative dental care. The care services they are able to provide, often in areas where access is limited for patients, includes disease prevention, filling cavities, routine extractions, performing cancer screenings and emergency crowns.

 

Dental therapists work in settings that are often understaffed or unable to maintain the services of full-time dentists, such as schools, nursing homes, veterans homes and geographically isolated areas. However, dental therapists are only authorized to practice at locations and to perform procedures that are authorized by their supervising dentist. This adds value to the dental pratices by enabling more patients to be seen, create more flexible scheduling and expand dental practices into underserved markets.

 

Research has shown that the addition of dental therapists has:

 

  • Increased the number of patient visits

  • Shortened wait times for an appointment

  • Decreased patient transportation time

  • Decreased the number of extractions and the need for general anesthesia for both children and adults

  • Increased the number of dental procedures provided

  • Increased revenue and profits for dental practices

Most importantly, data has proven that quality care was never sacrified by practices who brought on dental therapists. 

 

These practitioners are already providing services in six states, including Michigan and Minnesota. A number of other states have passed or have legislative proposals to authorize dental therapy. The use of the dental therapists by Ohio’s dentists and clinics is an economically feasible strategy to provide cost-effective, high quality care especially for traditionally hard to reach and underserved populations. 

Why Improved Access Matters

Dental care, in Ohio and across the country, continues to face dispartities in terms of access. Ohioans facing challenges to dental access, and many other health care inequities, include:

  • Low-income families

  • Medicaid consumers

  • People of color

  • People living in rural areas

  • Children

  • Seniors

  • Nursing home residents

These dispartities are causing two very different experiences for Ohioans - those with high access and those with none. Those with high access have the time and resources to get the care they need and want. Those without face barriers not only with costs, but in the distance and transportation issues to physically get to an office and taking time off of work.

Health care policies have, for too long, been narrowly focused in the definition of health care. Services considered by policymakers as "optional" or "speciality" - including dental, vision, mental health and women's health - are then left out of the conversation. However, consequences of discriminating against a more comprehensive approach to health care continues to worsen outcomes, increase disparities and increases costs.