The president of the Washington State Dental Association believes increased Medicaid funding and residencies will meet the dental needs of vulnerable communities [“Dental care is best left to dentists, not dental therapists,” Opinion, Jan. 18]. He cites consumer safety for opposing dental therapist participation. He is wrong on two counts.
First, the safety-net system is inadequate. Studies show that in states with increased Medicaid fees, the proportion of low-income children and adults receiving any care is still below that of the privately insured. Enriching dentists causes more to participate in Medicaid, but the disparities between rich and poor persist.
Second, the facts do not support consumers’ safety concerns. The therapists are highly skilled and before entering practice must complete a preceptorship of 400 clinic hours under direct supervision by a dentist. Therapists are federally certified, and every two years must be recertified by demonstrating clinical competence. Dental therapists have been trained and work successfully in Minnesota, Alaska and many countries and are endorsed by the American Public Health Association and American Association of Public Health Dentists.
Washington already licenses paraprofessionals who provide denture care. The dental association lost this fight after a vote of the people in a statewide referendum. It throws up smoke screens every time its monopolistic practices are challenged.
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Louis Fiset, Seattle