According to a report by the Pew Center on the States, Americans made 830,590 emergency room visits in 2009 for preventable dental conditions. That was a 16% increase over 2006.
Pointing to that statistic, advocates and legislators in Washington propose a new category of dental providers?"midlevel practitioners"?who can perform more complicated procedures than dental hygienists, but not difficult procedures done by dentists. Advocates state that the midlevel practitioners, also referred to as dental therapists, can help underserved areas at a lower cost.
Dentists, on the other hand, have concerns about dental therapists who treat patients. They are concerned about how dental therapists are trained and supervised. Dentists argue that off-site supervision would be too risky for patients, leaving them without a trained dentist to help in medical emergencies.
While the debate is ongoing, Washington is among nearly a dozen states that considered bills to license dental therapists. Midlevel dental providers have gone to work in Minnesota and tribal areas of Alaska.
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Photo credit: usatoday.com
Monica Barudin is the Associate Managing Editor for Dental Product Shopper and Hygiene Product Shopper.