Like it or loathe it, it appears that the dental therapist movement is establishing itself in the industry.
An article from The Pew Trusts detailed the progress that the dental therapist movement made in 2020 despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. And while it’s arguable that the movement is in its infancy, the momentum it’s gained in the last year would seem to suggest that dental therapists are here to stay.
Here’s a brief recap of how the field changed in the last year.
Here Come The Programs
2020 saw the accreditation of the first dental training program in the country. Iļisaġvik College in Alaska received accreditation from the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) which is same oversight board that accredits schools for dentists and dental hygienists.
Another program, at Vermont Technical College, will present its application for accreditation early this year and hopes to admit its first students in 2022. It’s fair to expect additional programs to follow although it’s likely that progress in this area will be uneven. However, the article notes that in 2021 “...at least 10 additional states will consider legislation authorizing dental therapists to practice, and others will finalize regulations to license these providers.”
Pew also notes that data concerning the impact of dental therapists is strongly positive; according to a longer-term, quantitative study the organization performed, “...clinics in Minnesota that employed dental therapists saw more patients, provided more services, and increased gross revenues after integrating these providers into their teams.” The authors note that dental therapists can also help ensure provision of services to Medicaid and underserved patients.
Food For Thought
You may or may not be on board with the dental therapist concept, but one thing is undeniable. Adding one or more dental therapists to your team extends your service provision at a lower cost than hiring one or more associate dentists. To put it simply, dental therapists represent competitive advantages that savvy dentists will embrace to maintain their market share and revenue.
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