Health Care For All supports the authorization of dental therapists in Massachusetts.
Dental Therapists are dental hygienists who would receive additional training and would then be authorized to deliver basic but important dental services to underserved populations throughout the state that are currently suffering from a lack of access to proper dental care. Dental therapists would reach out to patients in places like schools and nursing homes to provide low-cost, timely interventions and preventative care, improving overall health and helping to avoid costly emergency room visits on dental issues. They would also serve communities where dental care is lacking, either because these communities are bereft of dentists or because of the barriers to access that come from high costs for dental care and limited insurance coverage for oral health.
Currently, many Massachusetts residents are suffering from a lack of proper dental care. Over 520,000 people in Massachusetts live in areas with a shortage of dentists. In 2015, over 40 percent of children on MassHealth didn't see a dentist. This lack of care can lead to poor oral health and, in many case, emergency visits when health problems become severe, as seen in the Health Policy Commission report which showed that in 2015, there were 33,467 emergency department visits for preventable oral health conditions. Ensuring proper dental care could prevent many of these visits, decreasing the pain and suffering of individuals and saving considerable money on hospital costs. This would cut costs for the state as well, because many of those going to the emergency room for oral health issues are covered by MassHealth.
There are currently two proposals before the legislature to implement a dental therapist program in Massachusetts.
You can learn more about the importance of dental therapists from the stories below: