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Is it viable to add dental therapists to a dental practice?

Developing an evaluation plan for dental practices

Dental needs are the highest unmet health need for children and have long-term life consequences. Despite Medicaid coverage of dental care, only a little more than 1/3 of children on Medicaid receive services. The shortage of dentists in a number of areas, compounded by dentists unwillingness to accept Medicaid, accounts for low dental care access. Strategies are needed to improve access to dental care, especially for vulnerable children.

Dental therapy may be an answer. A dental therapist is a mid-level dental provider trained to perform preventive, basic restorative, and some intermediate restorative procedures with varying levels of dentist supervision. Adding dental therapists to a practice can increase access to routine preventive and restorative dental care for patients, especially those traditionally under- or unserved, by providing services at a lower cost and with shorter wait times.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded Westat to develop a plan for evaluating the implementation, outcomes, and economic viability of adding one or more dental therapists to a dental practice.

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