Earlier this year, Minnesota became the first state to broadly license dental therapists in an effort to improve the dental care offered to those living in rural and urban areas. Though the initiative for improved care is in its early steps, the state is the focus of attention within the healthcare community as a litmus test for improvements in dental health.
Dental therapists, have commonly been used in a Canada, New Zealand and throughout Europe to reduce the cost of dental care, the New York Times reports.
In Minnesota, the first wave of therapists will graduate in 2011 and begin work under the supervision of dentists. Unlike hygienists, they will be able to drill, extract baby teeth, remove stitches and cap nerves, according to the news source.
Employment of the professionals would aim to provide more expansive coverage in areas where dentists are lacking or unwilling to extend dental care to more carriers of Medicaid.
However, the American Dental Association (ADA) has continued its opposition to employing licensed therapists, arguing that the specialists would provide substandard care to patients, reports the Times.
The ADA recommends regular visits to a dentist beginning at one-year of age for proper dental care.
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