Wednesday, August 01, 2012

New level of dental professionals – therapists – could provide care to Medicaid-eligible kids, save a bundle

Research at the University of Connecticut suggests that adding a new kind of health professional – dental therapists – to clinics designated as Federally Qualified Health Centers could significantly expand the availability of care for millions of American children, many of them in rural areas. (Pew Center for the States photo)

The white paper from the Pew Center on the States notes that, "in particular, by including dental therapists as providers in school-based programs operated by FQHCs, the researchers estimated states could provide access to care for 6.7 million Medicaid-eligible children, nationwide." The analysis also suggests that this significant increase in access could be realized for a cost of approximately $1.8 billion, or just one half of 1 percent of combined state and federal 2009 Medicaid spending. To read the full Pew report, go here. 

Nationwide, 830,000 emergency room visits in 2009 were due to preventable dental problems, according to the center. Most of the children lacking care don't have insurance, live in areas without enough dentists or can't find doctors who accept Medicaid. Problems accessing dentists could grow in 2014, when 5 million more children are expected to get dental insurance under the federal health reform law.

Despite the undisputed need, not everyone is behind the concept. The American Dental Association argues that dental therapists lack the training and education needed to perform irreversible surgical procedures and to identify patients' other medical problems, writes Anna Gorman in the Los Angeles Times. Shelly Gehshan, director of the Children's Dental Campaign, said the therapists would be properly educated and would help close vast gaps in care that can lead to costly emergency room visits for dental problems.

In 2005, Alaska became the first state to try out the new dental-care model, when therapists began treating native populations. Minnesota authorized the new tier of practitioner in 2009, and the first graduates of dental therapy programs began practicing last year.


Gary W. Vollan said...

Expect More of the American Dental Association
The announcement of Dr. Calnon's appointment as Oral Health Acting Director, for Eastman leaves me bewildered knowing the intensity of the current dental and oral healthcare crises taking place in America. As a licensed denturist, I strive to push legislators and referendums here in Wyoming and across America to regulate the denturist profession in order that denturists can provide the services we've been trained and educated to provide. We have the right to provide these services as oral healthcare providers. There are several evidence based working models associated with six U.S. states along with all Canadian Providences showing the denturist profession has proven to work and there is no logical reason why denturists shouldn't be providing denture and referral services for Americans across our Nation. Dr. Calnons responsibility to address these problems as president of the American Dental Association has yet to come as Dr. Calnon continues to spread his leadership too thin and ADA's leadership continues to be out of touch with the American people's oral healthcare needs.

Looking over Eastman's website, I was encouraged by "Eastman Dental Demonstrates Social Work's Critical Role" page. ADA's launch of its new website page, is a small tip of the iceberg in meeting the oral health needs of our Nation. The American Dental Association needs to open its communiqué to other oral healthcare professions; to open the flood gates of oral healthcare services for all Americans through more affordable and alternative delivery systems; such as denturists, dental health aide therapists, dental therapists, and independent practices and boards for dental hygienists. Where is ADA’s leadership? Free-up the oral healthcare professions! “Dentists alone can not bring about the needed change to correct the disparities and in access to dental health and oral healthcare”(1). If the American Dental Association would quit squeezing out competition it would free up more chairtime for children. ADA’s self-serving political agenda is hurting those in need of dental and oral healthcare by suppressing qualified competitors who provide dental and oral health care services to people with disparities.

If ADA and its state constituents are so concerned about public safety; then pitch in some of the millions of dollars used for lobbying against competitors, and use it for education and training. Let educated and trained denturists do the dentures and partials. Help us build schools for allied oral healthcare professions such as denturists, dental health aide therapists, and dental therapists. Free up dental hygienists so they can regulate their own profession on a public health level. Corporate ADA needs to release its monopolistic grip on qualified competitors. Free market dentistry needs to expand so more Americans can have their dental needs met. The American Dental Association works against its own vision and mission statement by suppressing competition that has been trained and educated in providing dental and oral health care services to people with disparities. ADA; LET US SERVE OUR COUNTRY!

Gary W. Vollan L.D.
State Coordinator; Wyoming State Denturist Assn.,
P.O. Box 332, Basin, Wyoming 82410


Dentist said...

This is a to workable therapy for kids. and very good information for other dentist.

Gerry Kristen said...

Very good post, informative and thorough.

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Gerry Kristen said...

Very good post, informative and thorough.

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