Dental Therapists Work to Gain Support in Florida, Congress
Wednesday, December 7, 2022
Inside a massive appropriations bill now in Congress is a provision which would allow federal funding for dental therapists.
Dental therapists perform basic dentistry, including fillings and simple extractions, under the supervision of a dentist. They can also work remotely, providing care in places like nursing homes or rural areas.
Dr. Frank Catalanotto, a founding member of Floridians for Dental Access, said when oral health is neglected, people often end up in a hospital emergency room.
"Tragically, Florida leads the nation," Catalanotto pointed out. "In 2019, we had 150,000 visits to a hospital emergency department because of a preventable dental problem. We had 4,300 admissions to the hospital because the infection was life-threatening."
He added in 2019, hospitals billed $630 million for dental-related care, with roughly half being Medicaid or not paid. He argued many such cases could have been avoided if people had access to affordable preventive dental care.
The Florida Legislature has seen multiple attempts to legalize dental therapy fail in committee over the last few years. Alaska was the first U.S. state to license dental therapists 15 years ago, with a dozen more since then.
Dr. Larry Hill, president of the National Coalition of Dentists for Health Equity, said Congress has made multiple attempts to fund dental therapy in recent years, only to see it removed from bills at the last minute. He is convinced dental therapists could help address the critical national shortage of providers.
"It could mean the difference, literally, in millions of people over time," Hill contended. "Not next week, not next year, but over time, it could make the difference in millions of people that can't now get care being able to access just routine care, preventive care."
The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates nearly 70 million Americans live in areas without enough dental care providers. Often, the locations are rural or in underserved minority communities.
In 2015, the Commission on Dental Accreditation adopted standards for training in dental therapy and there are currently four such programs in the U.S.
Catalanatto noted dental therapy is holding up under scientific scrutiny.
"One hundred percent of the published scientific evidence said that dental therapists are safe, provide high-quality care, are cost-effective and help improve access to care for underserved people in this country," Catalanotto emphasized.
get more stories like this via email
The coalition known as "Think Babies Michigan" has secured more than $36 million in funding to offer grants to child-care providers for infants and to…
Nearly 100 school board elections are coming up in Minnesota this fall, with some gaining attention because of the candidates who are running…
The so-called conservative "hostile takeover" of a small, progressive liberal arts college in Florida is seeing some resistance from former students …
High rent prices are draining the budgets of many Nebraska renters, who are paying between 30% and 50% of their income on rent. In some parts of the …
As the federal government nears a shutdown over a budget impasse in Congress, Wisconsin offices that help low-income individuals worry they'll have …
Indigenous leaders are traveling through the Northwest to highlight the plight of dwindling fish populations in the region. The All Our Relations …
Washington performs well in a new report scoring states' long-term care systems. The Evergreen State ranked second in AARP's Long-Term Services and …
A lack of housing options, mental-health challenges and a lack of connections and support have combined to drive an uptick in the number of foster …