Wednesday, June 08, 2011

American Association of Public Health Dentistry Publishes Dental Therapist Curriculum Guidelines

Actually it is a special edition of their journal, Journal of Public Health Dentistry.
A renewed interest in finding ways to improve access to oral health care has emerged in the United States since the publication of the Surgeon General's report on the oral health of the nation in the year 2000. This special issue of the Journal of Public Health Dentistry calls upon the reader to consider several pertinent matters in developing educational programs for dental therapists, a well-established provider of oral health care in many countries used to reach underserved populations. While the addition of dental therapists is controversial in the field of dentistry, other types of mid-level providers have been used in providing medical care. For example, currently, there are mid-level nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and certified registered nurse anesthetists. Emergency medical technicians are sometimes included in this classification as well. Mid-level providers can examine patients, diagnose them, and provide some treatments, all of which must be signed off by a supervising licensed physician.

While debate continues in the field of dentistry about the benefits of adding a mid-level provider to the workforce to reach the underserved, dental therapists are being trained and deployed in two states. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium has educated and deployed dental health aide therapists (dental therapists) in several communities in remote areas of Alaska. Legislation in Minnesota permits the education of dental therapists, and models of training have emerged, one at the bachelor's degree level and the other at the master's degree level. Some of the students enrolled in the Minnesota programs will soon graduate and become part of the workforce in that state. In addition, several states have indicated interest in adding dental therapists to the workforce.
It all sounds good, just like ObamaCare does/did and I will review some of the contents of the AAPHD report over the weeks and months ahead.

But, many questions remain.

In the meantime, who is going to hire or who is going to pay dental therapists to practice?

The federal or state governments, who are broke? Or ,will the dental therapists compete directly with better and more comprehensively trained dentists and offer their services for less?

As, I said, many questions remain and organized dentistry will be opposed all along the way in this dental turf war.

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