KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

States Consider ‘Dental Therapists’ To Address Shortage Concerns

Dentists are voicing their concerns over patient care as more states consider licensing "dental therapists" to help alleviate a dental care shortage -- and so far only two states are using them.

Politico: 'Dental Therapists' Help Deal With Access Gap
Some state lawmakers think they've found the solution to the nation's severe dental care access problem, but so far, only two states are using the touted "dental therapists" -- and dentists aren't thrilled about the idea. According to the Pew Center on the States, more than 40 million Americans reside in areas with a shortage of dentists (Smith, 3/11).

The Associated Press: Dentists Wary Of New Role
Dental hygienists with advanced training could perform certain procedures now reserved for dentists, including routine fillings and tooth extractions, under a bill that supporters believe would improve access to oral health care for low-income Massachusetts residents and underprivileged children. The legislation would create a new, midlevel position called advanced dental hygiene practitioner, similar to a nurse practitioner in a physician's office and comparable to dental therapists that operate in more than 50 other countries (Salsberg, 3/11).

And in Minnesota, a report says dentists are underpaid by a state low-income medical assistance program --

MPR News: Report: Dentists Underpaid By State For Low-Income Patient Care
Minnesota doesn't pay dentists enough to treat patients enrolled in the state's Medical Assistance program, says a report issued Friday by the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor. The report says the state should increase the base rate for dentists treating MA patients and it should simplify the claims process, so dentists will be more willing to continue serving these low-income patients. Dentists have long complained that Medical Assistance, the state's program for the poor, doesn't cover their expenses (Benson, 3/8).

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