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Letters: Incentivize dentists

January 16, 2012

Every time I pick up the latest dental news publication, I read the debates about the possible addition of a "new dental team member." For some of the population it may be due to location, for others appointment availability, and even more the issue is financial. There will always and forever been a battle to create better access to health care.

We as a profession should feel proud for all that we are able to achieve for our patients in this day and age, thanks to the wonderful advances in technology and modern medicine. Today, more than ever, oral health is being linked to a patient’s overall health. However, in health care there will always be obstacles for patients to overcome. And despite how clear the path to care can be, or how simply issues could have been avoided by proper preventive care, there will always be people in the population who procrastinate until it is an emergency situation, require immediate care and then are unprepared to pay for their treatment.

Working in a large suburb outside of Chicago, there is clearly no shortage of dentists in the area. Where I live, the biggest obstacle for patients seems to be financial in nature. And when I attend local dental society meetings I hear about how dentists’ schedules have slowed due to the recession, and how they have had to let staff go in an effort to control overhead.

I’m sure there are areas in this country where the opposite is true. Why is it so difficult to locate these specific shortage areas and then to provide incentives for dentists to relocate and practice there?

I have concerns about lowering the quality of oral health care that is provided in this country by creating another "dental team member." This is a very real and valid concern. Simply put, the better the training and education of a provider, the better the care delivered and the better a patient is served. The general population will not be well enough informed about the differences in care they will receive by opting to be treated by these adjunct dental professionals. There WILL be a difference in overall care, because there IS a difference in training. We are a profession that has demanded excellence and have been well respected by the public for doing so. Let’s not cheapen what we have been able to achieve.

With dental students now graduating with tuition loans greater than home mortgages, they have more pressure than ever to produce. They are not worried about being able to afford that fancy sports car. They are worried about being able to provide quality of life for themselves and their families. Why is there not a way to create a more affordable dental education, so that perhaps these dentists of the future will have a greater ability to provide more affordable care?

No one has all the answers, and no one can solve all the problems, but let’s redirect our focus to ourselves. What can you personally do to help alleviate this problem? Perhaps some pro bono cases? Volunteer at a free clinic? Then do it. Seems to me that’s the best way to solve this problem.

Victoria Rinando, D.D.S.
Lombard, Ill.