(Minneapolis, MN) – The Minnesota Dental Association (MDA) has serious concerns about the inconclusive nature of findings in a report issued by the Minnesota Department of Health on the early impact of dental therapists on the delivery of and access to dental services. This report, issued in conjunction with the Minnesota Board of Dentistry, was mandated by the 2009 Minnesota Legislature when dental therapists were first authorized to be licensed in our state, but is based on small numbers of practicing dental therapists and the patients they have served.
To date Minnesota has licensed 32 dental therapists, with only 26 currently practicing, a virtually insignificant number compared to the over 17,000 licensed dental professionals in our state. Such small numbers shed serious doubt on the findings in the report, which claims that practicing dental therapists have had a pronounced impact on underserved populations, from reduced travel times and wait times for appointments to increased productivity and improved patient satisfaction. This study is not only premature in terms of its validity, but it also utilizes much anecdotal evidence that is reported as fact.
In particular, the MDA is concerned that the MDH report provides little conclusive evidence of the impact of dental therapists on access to dental care or their economic impact.
“While the report fulfills the legislature’s mandated requirements, it is by no means a complete picture,” stated Dr. Michael Perpich, MDA President. “Conclusions are based upon the experiences of seven full time equivalent employees or FTE’s. It would be unrealistic to suggest that the experiences of seven FTE’s can determine trends for an entire health care profession in the state of Minnesota.”
While dental therapists may be a viable dental team member in certain settings, their continued licensing and employment will require ongoing assessment to truly understand what, if any, impact they will have on delivering quality dental care to underserved populations in Minnesota.
MINNESOTA DENTAL ASSOCIATION SPONSORS STATEWIDE CHARITABLE DENTISTRY EVENT
(Minneapolis, MN) - - Minnesota dentists will provide free dental care services for children in need, during the Minnesota Dental Association’s Give Kids a Smile event on February 7 and 8, 2014. This unique, charitable dentistry event will provide care to 6,000 children at over 200 dental clinics throughout the state.
The Minnesota Dental Association is sponsoring the 12th consecutive year of Give Kids a Smile as part of the national Children’s Dental Health Month in February.
“Starting kids off with good oral hygiene at a young age is important for a lifetime of healthy smiles. Unfortunately, many families face barriers to obtaining dental care. Minnesota dentists want to be part of the solution,” said Minnesota Dental Association President Michael Perpich, whose practice is located in St. Louis Park.
Patients seeking appointments should be 18 years or younger and accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Advance appointments are required. Parents can find a local participating dentist by calling United Way 211 (just dial 2-1-1) or 1-(800)-543-7709 or visiting www.mndental.org. Information on specific services provided will be outlined when an appointment is scheduled.
Since Give Kids a Smile began, Minnesota dentists have provided free care to nearly 50,000 young children and donated services valued at more than $15 million dollars. Volunteers speaking multiple languages have been engaged to eliminate language barriers. School nurses actively partner to make sure families are aware of the program. The United Way’s 2-1-1 number has become an invaluable link to connect needy families with volunteer dentists.
But challenges remain. Dental disease remains more prevalent today than childhood asthma. Tooth decay is the most chronic childhood disease, affecting 50 per cent of U.S. first graders. Minnesota is ranked 39th nationally in dental fee reimbursements for treating children on government health programs, with dentists only paid 35% of their actual fee for providing the care, compared to 60% nationally.
For more facts on the Minnesota Dental Association’s Give Kids a Smile, go to mndental.org or find us on Facebook.