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ADA Responds to News Coverage of Dental Therapists

February 21, 2017

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CHICAGO — Recent news coverage has reported on state activity related to dental therapists as an option to address access to care challenges. There is no available data that demonstrate new models that replicate what dentists already do well have increased access to care at a lower cost. Data from the American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute (HPI) indicate the current number of dentists will continue to grow through 2035 and outpace population growth. In addition, more than 27 percent of dentists indicate they have the capacity to add more patients. 

Rather than add a new category of providers, the ADA believes there is a critical need to connect underserved people seeking care with dentists ready to treat them. This can be accomplished through community health worker outreach and improved funding for dental services under Medicaid which in turn would increase the number of dentists participating in the program. 

An HPI research brief concluded that 22 states could add extensive dental benefits to their existing Medicaid program by adding 1 percent to their Medicaid budgets. Currently most state Medicaid budgets allocate less than 2 percent of their entire Medicaid budget for dental services. When states reform their Medicaid programs using evidence-based solutions, there is tremendous progress. Maryland, Texas, Connecticut, and Michigan are just a few examples.

The ADA will continue to strive for evidence-based, cost-effective solutions that focus on preventing dental disease as well as connecting underserved people seeking care with dentists who can treat them. 

Editor’s Note: Reporters are invited to follow the ADA on Twitter @AmerDentalAssn

About the ADA

The not-for-profit ADA is the nation's largest dental association, representing 162,000 dentist members. The premier source of oral health information, the ADA has advocated for the public's health and promoted the art and science of dentistry since 1859. The ADA's state-of-the-art research facilities develop and test dental products and materials that have advanced the practice of dentistry and made the patient experience more positive. The ADA Seal of Acceptance long has been a valuable and respected guide to consumer dental care products. The monthly The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) is the ADA's flagship publication and the best-read scientific journal in dentistry. For more information about the ADA, visit For more information on oral health, including prevention, care and treatment of dental disease, visit the ADA's consumer website