October 27, 2010

Healthier Smiles, One Dental Therapist at a Time

Good news for deregulation!

The W.K. Kellogg Institute released a study yesterday evaluating the success of the Alaskan dental therapist program over the past two years. The results reflected both high patient satisfaction and quality of care. Dental therapists — a topic we’ve discussed on Show-Me Daily before — are mid-level dental professionals that can provide basic and preventive oral health care at a lower cost than traditional dentists. Alaska’s recent results add to a growing body of research showing that deregulation in dental care can improve health by bringing quality care to underserved areas.

For Missouri, this is just further proof that loosening the restrictions on dental practitioners could be beneficial. Of Missouri’s 114 counties, 50 have a shortage of dental professionals, a problem that is most profound in rural areas. This has led to fewer Missourians receiving dental care: Missouri was ranked 47th in the nation for the percentage of its adult population who visited the dentist during the past year.

While rural Alaska reaps the benefits of this dental deregulation, Missouri still only allows dentists certified by the American Dental Association to perform even basic dental care. With the benefits of mid-level practitioners becoming increasingly apparent, Missourians stand to gain from a reconsideration of state dental regulations.

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