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“The Dental Therapist will see you now..”!?

The days of your dentist and dental hygienist as your only health care providers are over. Legislation is being approved and accreditation has been granted for training programs for dental therapists in Minnesota and Alaska. Parts of our country where there are sometimes great distances between towns and cities often have limited access to licensed dentists or hospitals that can provide routine or emergent care when needed. There is public outcry for an increased number of mid-level providers that programs like these would supply. You have already been treated by someone in a similar allied dental field for the past three decades! Jackie has been an Expanded Function Dental Assistant (EFDA) for over thirty years. It was only within the last two years that her position was finally recognized and licensed by the Commonwealth. EFDAs work under the direct supervision of a licensed dentist and provide many of the services that a dentist can perform including making dental impressions, adjusting crowns and place composite or amalgam restorations.

The concern from dentists comes from the possibility of dental therapists then using their knowledge and training to start their own practices without direct supervision and be in competition with licensed dentists where access to care is not an issue. Their programs just do not cover the vast amount of medical history information that it takes to diagnose and treat serious medical conditions that they will encounter on a daily basis. Administering anesthesia to extract an infected molar is one thing; handling a medical emergency that arises from that anesthesia is a whole different set of circumstances. The ADA has an optimistic but guarded and watchful opinion on the matter so we will see how this all plays out over the coming months and years.

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