Dental Health Aide Therapists already provide care in Alaska Native territories and in Minnesota, while Kansas, Connecticut, Maine, and New Hampshire legislatures, along with several public health communities around the U.S., are considering the mid-level dental provider model.
59% of the dentists who responded to this survey believe that there should be fewer alternative providers than there already are.
In this survey, dentists also question whether mid-level oral health providers can sustain the same standard of care as a licensed dentist.
As one California dentist put it, “I went to college and dental school for eight years in order to receive the education necessary to safely perform irreversable procedures upon the human body. It is clear that this level of education cannot be achieved in two or three years. Isn’t it interesting that the proponents of the low-level provider scheme intend that it be used for OTHER people’s healthcare, and not for their own?”
Here’s how the dentists answered the question: “What are your thoughts on alternative dental providers?” —
- 22% — Good! Alternative providers increase access to dental care.
- 53% — Bad! I am concerned about the level of care they can provide.
- 25% — Not sure. I don’t know how the benefits weigh against the risks.
The vast majority of dentists, who think alternative providers are a bad idea are suburban dentists. Rural dentists are most in favor of mid-level providers, while urban dentists are most unsure about this type of dental care.
Here’s what dentists had to say about alternative dental providers —
“They won’t be going to the shortage areas, which is where the need is because there will not be the money they want or need to practice successfully. A better alternative is to pay student loans in exchange for dentists going to the shortage areas. We are just like politicians, people go for the money. Why establish a whole new curriculum and physical schools that will cost a lot more than paying student loans?” (Missouri dentist)
“If you want to provide dental care . . . GO TO DENTAL SCHOOL!” (General dentist)
“I don’t see a safety issue. I see a need for a public health system to employ them… otherwise, insurance companies and entrepenurial dentists will employ them and use them to crush our ability to make a living in private practices.” (Illinois dentist)
“I dislike the term ‘alternative dental providers’, it makes it sound like plumbers or shoe repair people could potentially do dentistry.” (Maryland dentist)
“We have no access-to-care problem here, we have a lack-of-patients problem.” (Rhode Island dentist)
“I know dentists are able to see more patients without a decrease in quality. They just need an incentive to reach out to underserved areas.” (Oregon dentist)
“I have had an RDAEF2 for nearly one year now and I think this is a real win-win-win for dentistry, for auxiliaries and for dental patients. My RDAEF2 is caring, competent, talented and all-around wonderful. She has increased my production without increasing my stress level. When I turn a procedure over into her competent hands, I describe her to my patients as being comparable to a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant but in the dental sphere. Patients have been very accepting of her and I know they are well cared for by her. She has been, for me and in my practice, better than an associate. With associates, I was constantly baby-sitting them to make sure they weren’t missing diagnoses, saying the wrong thing, or treating a situation inadequately or, God forbid, ineptly. With my EF2, I diagnose, numb, prep and turn it over to her with a final check by me. My production has shot up while the standard of care remains the same or better.“ (California dentist)
“This access to care debate is mostly a myth to make the politicians look good!” (South Carolina dentist)
“This is the only way we will be able to meet present and future under-served.” (Connecticut endontist)
“Bad idea. There is a reason why dentists go to dental school in order to be properly trained to provide competent care to patients.” (Alabama dentist)
“In the Indian Health Service clinic dentists anesthetized and prepared teeth, trained assistants filled and adjusted, dentists checked and signed off. It allowed us to see twice as many patients in a day and they did beautiful work. This model could work in public dentistry clinics and increase access at a lower price and risk.” (Texas dentist)
“There’s no real need. If patients and insurance valued dental care with proper payment for services, they could use the existing infrastructure of dental availability.” (Nevada dentist)
What are your thoughts on the idea of mid-level oral heath providers? Do you think that it is a good idea?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments.