Covering the debate over expanded use of dental therapists [news release]
Reminds me of my sister who is a pharmacist. She goes on yearly medical missions to Haiti. The folks working in the pharmacy at the clinic there have only a high school education. My sister is a stickler when it comes to pharmacy practice/licensing in the US. But very much in awe with her Haitian colleagues and what they know and are able to do.
A recent news package in The Seattle Times by reporter Will Drabold took a look at how the controversy over dental therapists is unfolding in the state of Washington.
Drabold examined the challenges faced by poor Medicaid patients in seeking dental care. He spoke with health care advocates who believe that technically-trained mid-level providers could bring much-needed care to poor and isolated communities. He also interviewed tribal leader Brian Cladoosby, whose Swinomish tribe had just defied state restrictions to hire a dental therapist. And he spoke with state dental association officials, who made it clear that they – like the American Dental Association – believe dental therapists lack the training to perform these expanded duties.
Dental therapists, who often are compared to nurse practitioners, are trained to deliver a range of services including screenings, cleanings, preventive care, fillings and extractions. While the therapists do work under the supervision of dentists, dental groups often contend that dentists alone have the training to perform what they consider irreversible surgical procedures, such as drilling and extracting teeth.
In spite of resistance from organized dentistry, variations of the therapist model already are being used in Alaska’s tribal lands and in the state of Minnesota. Dental therapists have been approved in Maine and are being considered in a number of other states.
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