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Entries in Dental Therapist (27)


ADA Releases Economic Studies of Dental Midlevel Providers

Earlier this week, the American Dental Association released an economic analysis of three different midlevel provider models, the Dental Health Aide Therapists (DHATs) currently working in Alaska Native territories, the Dental Therapists (DTs) working in Minnesota, and the Advanced Dental Hygiene Practitioner that is supported by the American Dental Hygienists’ Association.

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WSDA President Comments on Dental Therapists in The Seattle Times

Earlier this month, WSDA President Dr. Rod Wentworth responded to a Seattle Times story on dental therapists. Here's what he had to say:

Resources should be redirected

The Kellogg Foundation is wrong to spend $20 million nationwide to promote a new practitioner that is not a solution. [“Report: Dental therapists worldwide give safe care,”, April 10.]

As experts on oral health care, dentists understand the real barriers to optimal oral health. We cannot drill and fill our way to a solution. Instead, we must focus on prevention and education because fewer than 30 percent of people follow their dentist’s advice to brush and floss twice a day. Dental disease is nearly 100 percent preventable yet 40 percent of all Washingtonians with dental insurance don’t regularly visit a dentist. More practitioners will not change this, but education can.

Dentists work throughout the state in clinics, schools and community centers to educate people about the importance of oral health. Education about oral health and its importance to overall health needs to happen outside of the dental clinic and be reinforced by parents, teachers and the community. Only when we address issues like fear, cultural and language barriers, and lack of knowledge can we begin to address poor oral health.

Olympia has dramatically cut funding for dental care for low-income people. Our limited resources and those of large foundations should be directed toward proven solutions that address the real barriers to care.

— Rod Wentworth, DDS, Seattle

Click here to go to the Seattle Times page


2012 Legislature: Regular Session Adjourns, Special Session Begins

Last Thursday, March 8, marked the end of the 2012 60-day legislative session. The regular session proved to be very eventful but the Legislature failed to pass a supplemental budget to close the $500 million shortfall in state’s current two year operating budget. As a result, Governor Chris Gregoire convened a special legislative session focused on passing a supplemental budget and other large budget issues. Special legislative sessions carry restrictions that do not exist during regular legislative sessions. Therefore, the Legislature can only focus on budget issues during this special session and cannot deliberate on other policy issues. Here’s a breakdown on what happened on the major legislation that WSDA followed during 2012 regular session:

What Passed:

SB 5620
SB 5620 authorizes the creation of certified dental anesthesia assistants (CDAA). CDAAs will be allowed to assistant oral surgeons will patient monitoring, initiate and discontinue intravenous lines, administer emergency medications, and perform are duties under direct verbal command. The Dental Quality Assurance Commission will now begin writing rule for the new law.

SB 6131
SB 6131 was a minor technical amendment to Washington’s bulk mercury law which takes effect in June. SB 6131 clarifies that dental amalgam and other commercial devices containing mercury (such as switches used in airplanes) are not included in a ban on the sale, purchase, or distribution of bulk mercury. SB 6131 was supported by the Department of Ecology, WSDA, and several business groups.

HB 2319
HB 2319 is Governor and Insurance Commissioner requested legislation for implementing the federal affordable care act in Washington. HB 2319 clarifies the responsibilities of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange Board of Directors, what health benefits must be included in health plans, and market rules for health plans offered inside and outside of the exchange. Under federal law, pediatric dental benefits must be offered in health plans offered in the exchange but HB 2319 requires that all dental plans must be offered separate from medical plans to ensure that consumers can more easily compare dental insurance options. WSDA will continue to monitor how the affordable care act will be implemented in Washington and advocate for the best interests of the profession and dental patients.

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WSDA Dentists Respond to ER Reports

WSDA President Dr. Rod Wentworth and Snohomish County Dental Society President Dr. Stephen Lee jointly wrote an editioral piece in the Everett Herald last Friday. The piece was written in response to an Everett Herald editorial about utilization of hospital emergency rooms for dental care.

The entire piece is included below or can be read here:

Education, state aid are essential

The Herald's editorial "Sign of a system in crisis" brings attention to the importance of oral health and the use of hospital emergency rooms by people with dental problems. The solution is seemingly simple: good oral health practices can prevent costly emergency room visits.

As dentists, we see two key barriers to this solution: lack of knowledge about the importance of oral health and Washington's fractured dental safety net. We believe finding cost effective solutions to these problems will reduce dental related emergency room visits and improve the overall health of our residents.

Low oral health literacy is one of the most significant barriers to dental care. Dentists cannot provide care unless patients see a need for treatment. Even among people with dental insurance, less than 60 percent visit the dentist for regular preventive care. Laws and regulation will not change this, but education can. The Washington Oral Health Foundation, the charitable arm of the Washington State Dental Association, works throughout the state in schools and community centers to educate people about the importance of oral health. Only when we address issues like fear, cultural and language barriers, and lack of knowledge will we begin to solve real problems for many Washingtonians.

Unfortunately, programs that provide dental care for low-income people have been severely cut in Olympia. That penny-wise, pound-foolish decision will result in more pain for patients and more expense for taxpayers. Washington dentists are doing their part, providing charity care to more than 100,000 patients in 2011 alone. However, charity care is not a sustainable health care system.

Some, like the Pew Foundation, suggest that a lesser trained person with no real supervision should treat the most vulnerable. As dentists we know that, instead of lowering the quality of care to those most in need, the better answer is dramatically ramped up prevention and oral health education programs -- prevent the problem before it becomes an emergency.

Dr. Rod Wentworth, president
Washington State Dental Association
Dr. Stephen Lee, president
Snohomish County Dental Society