We are in the middle of a sever Dental shortage, and by looking back into history we may have found a solution. The (HPSAs) shows that we are only meeting 35.28% of dental needs in the United States. If we look back to the 60’s when we had a shortage of Primary Care Doctors we may come up with a solution today for the Dental Crisis. In 1965, the first ever nurse Practitioner training program launched at the University of Colorado causing increased access to care for families in the United States.
So, in come Dental Therapists which would be like Nurse Practitioners for the Dental field. Dental Therapists would be required to graduate from an accredited dental program that awards master’s degrees in the field, pass a board approved clinical evaluation, and complete 2,500 hours of practice under the direct supervision of a Dentist.
Once a dental therapist completes those requirements they would be able to practice without an onsite dentist. This would help take care of patients that are need of the smaller procedures. An onsite dentist would still need to be present for procedure such as capping, extractions, and placement of a tooth crown.
In 2011, the American Association of Public Health Dentistry developed a curriculum for training dental therapists. Shortly after, the American Dental Association (ADA)–the nation’s largest association for practicing dentists–expressed an “unequivocal opposition to non-dentists performing surgical/irreversible procedures.” The ADA’s main concern with dental therapists was not the quality of care they provide, but the fact that they were “non-dentists.”
In these times of shortages in the healthcare industry we need to be innovative in finding ways to see patients that are need of care. Just like Nurse Practitioners to the primary care crisis this would be a solution for the Dental industry in alleviating the shortage by allowing dental therapists to practice and improve access to oral care.