Affordable Dentistry for the Poor with Dental Therapists?

Should they experience a dental abscess, it is their problem how they will solve it. Also, statistics show 130 million Americans do not have dental insurance at all.

Since about 92% of the dentists own their own practices which means they must support the costs…they are extremely reluctant when it comes to offering dental care to patients with Medicaid coverage. Dentistry has become such a luxury in America.

But, reformers are gathering at each corner and they might have come up with a battle plan. Many say the wisest option to make dentistry affordable to everyone (meaning people from all social classes!), is to create a system of mid level dental services providers.

In other words, to train nurse practitioners to be able to offer dentistry services to people in need. As we speak, as many as 54 countries have already adopted this system, including countries such as New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the UK.

These countries have basically expanded the entire workforce in the circle of dentistry with the help of special “dental therapists”. And the results are stunning. However, from an economic standpoint, many dentists will certainly oppose this practice.

It is somewhat understandable- they do not want a crowd of professionals who are less expensive to enter the workforce and take away a lot of good work from them. The issue has also got much more implications, but on the whole the US does not seem to really want to adopt this strategy in order to make dentistry available to all people, in all places…

Currently, in the US only two states allow dental therapists to perform basic dental work under the supervision of the dentist: Minnesota and Alaska. Many proponents of this strategy view dental therapists as a global solution to the great problems in dentistry.

Dental therapists receive specialized training, and they are allowed to perform dental anesthesia (restricted techniques only), tooth restorations, taking dental X-rays or performing professional dental cleaning. In the UK, dental therapists are allowed to perform extractions, and they can fit pre-formed dental crowns on patients.

They are also allowed to work independently, without the supervision of a professional dentist. In Canada on the other hand dental therapists can perform work only under the strict supervision of a dentist, and working only in certain communities or places where people don’t have access to dental care.


  1. says

    Expect More of the American Dental Association and Its State Dental Constituents

    The ADA lobbies federal and state legislators to disregard legislation that would regulate midlevel oral healthcare providers such as denturists, dental therapists, dental health aide therapists, and independent practices for dental hygienists for more productive public health dental services.

    Gary W. Vollan L.D. State Coordinator; Wyoming State Denturist Assn.,

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