Opponent's Arguments Don't Hold Up

Opponents SAY: Dental therapists have not increased access to care where they are working

  • A 2014 report released by Minnesota dental board and health department reported the following about clinics that were employing dental therapists:[i]
  • Over 1.5 years, dental therapists working in 14 clinics saw more than 6,300 new patients; more than 80% of these new patients were publicly insured;
  • Some patients had shorter travel times and nearly 1/3 saw decreased wait times;
  • Minnesota dental therapists provided more than 175,000 patient visits since 2017.[ii] READ MORE


[i] Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota Board of Dentistry, “Early Impacts of Dental Therapists in Minnesota: Report to the Legislature, 2014” (February 2014) http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/orhpc/workforce/oral/dtlegisrpt.pdf 
[ii] Data provided by Michael Scandrett, MS Strategies research group to Jane Koppelman, Pew Dental Campaign on January 29, 2019.

Increase Access to Care NOW!

Evaluation Findings from Wisconsin Four-County Medicaid Dental Reimbursement Pilot


  • The pilot sought to test whether more dentists would enroll in Medicaid and more people would receive services after reimbursement rates were more than doubled in four counties.
  • The results are modest, at best.  Dental service use increased by an average of 4 percentage points for children and 5 percentage points for adults, with a wide range among the pilot counties. 
  • The major problem with the way the study was designed is that it is impossible to tell what caused the modest increase, according to evaluators.  This is troubling because, as the report notes, during the same time as the pilot, Federally Qualified Health Centers significantly increased dental service use with additional federal funding they were awarded.  FQHCs are often the major provider of Medicaid dental care in their communities, according to the evaluation.READ MORE


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RESEARCH & Resources

The Evidence Base for Dental Therapy:

Quality, Access, Cost Efficiency
Dental therapists help dentists provide quality oral health care to more patients. They perform a limited number of procedures that are beyond the scope of a dental hygienist (e.g., preparing and filling cavities, performing nonsurgical extractions), which allows dentists to devote more time to complex procedures that only they can perform. Dental therapists command lower salaries than dentists, so adding them to the dental team can help lower the production costs of providing care so practices can increase revenue.[i]

Dental therapists can work under general supervision so they can be used by private and public practices to extend office hours to evenings and weekends without a dentist required to be on site. They can also work remotely in underserved areas, or in off-site locations such as schools, day care centers, and nursing homes to bring care to those who face challenges traveling to a dental office. READ MORE

[i] The Pew Charitable Trusts, “5 Dental Therapy FAQs,” (April 21, 2016), http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/q-and-a/2016/04/5-dental-therapy-faqs.