For two decades, the US Surgeon General has highlighted large gaps in access to oral care and the “silent epidemic” of dental disease. More than 30% of the US population has difficulty accessing care. This has resulted in a call to action to increase workforce diversity, capacity, and flexibility in order to expand access to oral health care in the US.
While we have seen growth among dental graduates, there are still vast deserts of care (over 60 million people live in shortage areas) and high debt burdens at graduation (nearly $300,000) among professionals.
In a February 2022 webinar, faculty from Healthforce Center at UCSF shared their research and recommendations for how to encourage delivery of care in new settings (where people live, work, and learn) and new professional models, including dental therapists, to address major access issues.
- Moderator: Janet Coffman, MA, MPP, PhD, Professor, Philip R Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, UCSF
- Elizabeth Mertz, PhD, associate professor, Department of Preventive and Restorative Dental Services, School of Dentistry, and the Healthforce Center at UCSF
- Margaret Langelier, MSHSA, Co-Deputy Director, Oral Health Workforce Research Center, Center for Health Workforce Studies, University at Albany, SUNY
- Simona Surdu, MD, PhD, Co-Deputy Director, Oral Health Workforce Research Center, Center for Health Workforce Studies, University at Albany, SUNY
Dental therapy is a workforce innovation that appears to improve access to and equity in dental service delivery in the US. This webinar discussed the origins and evolution of this workforce model, the process of authorizing and implementing dental therapy training and practice in states, and the impacts on patients and providers in Minnesota where dental therapists have been established and integrated into clinical teams over the last decade. Presenters also discussed variability in enabling legislation and the importance of standardization in qualifications for licensure, supervision requirements, and scope of practice.
This webinar was cosponsored by HWTAC and AcademyHealth’s Health Workforce Interest Group.