Wednesday, December 8

Arizona Introduces Dental Therapists in Specific Settings

Fear of the dentist is the reason why some people don’t go to the dentist, even if they really need to. But in Arizona, if the visit is your fear you may have access to a dental therapist.

In the United States, 74% of people have some form of periodontal disease. If you’re one of the 74%, not getting that taken care of because of fear could lead to serious issues. A new law in Arizona makes it the seventh state to allow the use of dental therapy for help with that specific issue. According to The Arizona Capitol Times, dental therapists are similar to nurse practitioners. They give routine care like placing crowns or filling cavities, but help people conquer their fears.

According to Tucson, the dental therapists would only be allowed to practice in certain settings including federally qualified health centers and nonprofit community health centers that treat low-income patients. Senator Nancy Barto, a Republican from Phoenix, sponsored the original dental therapy bill. She feels as though the therapists could help meet the oral health needs in Arizona.

“Dental therapists are a proven workforce model that will increase affordable care options without creating new, burdensome regulations,” Barto said.

The law says for a person to become a dental therapist, they need to be licensed as a dental hygienist and have graduated from a three-year dental therapy training program. They will also have to complete a clinical competency exam.

While many people support the new law, the Arizona Dental Association hasn’t been too keen on it. Kevin Earle, the association’s executive director, said they don’t believe it’s the answer to the state’s dental issue. Even though they aren’t too happy with the plan, they still agreed to create the new dental profession.

The Department of Health Services will do a study on how successful this program is once the dental therapists are working. They will decide if they want to continue with the program or not when the study has come to an end.

The law goes into effect on August 3.

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