In Minnesota, the dental profession aims to serve people who do not have access to dental care from its inception.
Dental therapists are mid-level service providers, similar to a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner. The goal of dental treatment is to increase access to dental care in urban and rural areas.
They are required by law to work in settings that serve low-income and disadvantaged populations or in specific dentistry Area of shortage of health professionalsincluding clinics where 50% or more of patients seen by a dental therapist are enrolled in Minnesota Health Care, have a medical disability or chronic condition, or do not have health coverage and a gross family income of less than 200% of the FPL.
gaps in access
There are wide disparities in access to dental care across the country. Between 2011 and 2016, 17 percent of children ages 2 to 5 from low-income families had untreated cavities in their primary teeth, which is three times the percentage of children from high-income families, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. diseases. data.
Part of the reason could fall on those in the profession. in 2019, 40% of the 3,083 dentists in Minnesota who did not accept general insurance.
“A lot of dentists don’t have public assistance insurance, and that’s a huge barrier to people being able to get that care. So you have people driving two to three hours just to see Provider that accepts their insurance.
Many state and federal insurance programs rarely include adult dental benefits, leaving many people uninsured. In 2019, 20% of Americans did not have dental coverage, and nearly 50% of those 65 and older mentioned No dental insurance.
In 2017, 25.3% of Minnesotans were without dental insurance, and 15.5% of Minnesotans had missed dental care within the past year due to cost, according to the 2017 Minnesota Health Access Survey.
Having more dental therapists has increased access to dental care due to state requirements for a 50% enrollment in Medicaid requirements.
Dental therapists provide routine preventive and restorative care, including filling cavities, placing temporary crowns, and extracting diseased or loose teeth. As dental therapists treat those conditions, Cabrera said, dentists can focus on other conditions.
Dental therapists are able to provide more routine procedures and preventative treatments. That way dentists are able to see more of those as complex cases or are able to do more of those complex treatments that are outside our practice,” Cabrera said.
one study who examined a dental clinic in Minnesota found that having dental therapists on staff helped everyone increase the number of patients they saw and increase the clinic’s revenue.
Minnesota became the first state to establish a dental profession in 2009, with the first dental students graduating in 2011. Since then, the profession has been growing steadily. In 2018, there were 92 dental therapists in the state. From He walks, Minnesota had 133 dental therapists.
The University of Minnesota program has about eight graduates annually, said Drew Christianson, clinical assistant professor at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry. The program recently received accreditation from the Commission on Dental Accreditation, which only two other dental programs in the country have.
“Setting the same level of standards allows the dental profession and the dental community to see that we graduate students at the same levels as dental students and dental hygienists,” he said.
Christianson said that as more geographic areas embrace dental treatment, graduating from an accredited program will allow students to practice in other states where licensure is required.