Opposition to creating mid-level dental providers is misguided and fails to recognize the problems many people face finding affordable care, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) said recently.
A survey commissioned by the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group found a large majority of respondents supported the creation of mid-level practitioners allowed to carry out basic dental work, including filling cavities and basic extractions.
The American Dental
Association and most state dental associations oppose allowing mid-level
providers to do restorations and extractions due to concerns about
non-dentists performing surgical/irreversible procedures.
The poll, conducted by Wilson Perkins Allen (WPA) Opinion Research, found that 79 percent strongly or somewhat supported the creation of a new type of mid-level practitioners.
Support is bipartisan, with 77 percent of Republicans, 80 percent of Independents, and 80 percent of Democrats supporting, to some degree, the creation of these positions. It is largely up to state legislatures to decide whether they should be legalized.
“Letting the free market work is a nonpartisan issue,” Paul Blair, state affairs manager for Americans for Tax Reform, said.
This is “evident by an overwhelming level of support from voters who believe states should permit mid-level dental providers to give care and services to consumers in dental offices across the country,” Blair told Dental Health Wire.
"The opposition to creating mid-level dental providers by state dental associations is misguided and fails to recognize the reality that many people face throughout the U.S.,” Blair said. “Many dentists don't accept Medicaid, and countless families don't have hundreds of dollars to commute to big cities for dental care."
Blair said Alaska, Maine, Vermont and Minnesota have authorized mid-level dental providers in some form, “with recent efforts in Texas, North Dakota, Kansas and New Mexico not yet getting approval from the legislatures.”
Michigan GOP state Sen. Mike Shirkey introduced SB 1013 in June. It would allow dental therapists to practice under the supervision of a licensed dentist.
Following specialized training, they would be licensed to provide routine dental care, including restorations.
One of the bill’s provisions requires that mid-level providers practice in public health clinics or have at least half of their patients receiving Medicaid, carrying no insurance or facing other barriers to obtaining oral care.
“The effort to let small businesses hire qualified, trained dental professionals to provide an expanded list of services in states will continue as long as there is an access-to-care issue and a market demand for it,” Blair said.
In its analysis of the poll, WPA Opinion Research said, “This support extends across all key demographic groups, including men and women of all ages, Republicans, Independents, Democrats, whites and Hispanic voters.
“The support for such a process extends across a wide swath of Americans, regardless of political affiliation, ethnicity or gender.”
ATR describes mid-level dental practitioners as a “big idea” for social change, and a possible way to reduce health care costs while increasing access to care for millions of Americans seeking dental services throughout the U.S.
Maine Gov. Paul LePage and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty were the first to sign legislation permitting the creation of these mid-level practitioners in their states.