Dentists object to practice by dental therapists
In previous blog entries we have reported on the shortage of dentists in the U.S. and the decline in dental care as schools graduate fewer dentists and more dentists retire. Despite this documented and increasing shortage, the documentation of declining dental health, and increasing income for dentists, dental advocacy groups and lobbyists continue to fight the licensing of dental therapists to provide more mundane dental services, particularly in rural areas.
The State of Alaska was a pioneer in attempting to follow the rest of the civilized world in licensing dental therapists to perform routine tasks such as filling cavities and extracting badly diseased teeth. It created the only education program for dental therapists and employs them to provide basic services to under-served rural residents. Many of these residents have not received dental care in years. The State created this system when it was unable to attract enough dentists to provide care to rural Alaskan residents (primarily native Americans).
Initially the American Dental Association brought suit to end the program, however, the suit was dropped when the Judge ruled against the ADA and was highly critical of its motives and reasoning. Despite this failure, the ADA continues to lobby (successfully) against expanding Alaska's pioneering program into the other 49 states despite clear documentation of a shortage of dentists and a decline in dental health. In a previous entry, we pointed out that a stunningly-high percentage of Kentucky residents have NO teeth--because public dental programs will pay only for tooth extraction. There have been several documented cases of children dying IN THE U.S. in the last five years, from sepsis and other complications of tooth decay.
It will be a day to celebrate in this country when lobbyists representing well-to-do interests can no longer block public programs needed to provide basic health care to all residents.