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ADA comments on Wall Street Journal article

August 31, 2016

By Jennifer Garvin

"Poor children shouldn't be stopped from seeing a dentist by a restructured system that redirects them to providers with less training than dentists."

This was one of the ADA's key messages in its response to the Wall Street Journal's Aug. 19 article, "You Don't Have to be a Dentist to Fill A Cavity," which proposed dental therapists as the solution to access to care issues.

In the Association's Aug. 31 letter to the editor, Dr. Jane Grover, director, ADA Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations, explains the many challenges that keep people from visiting a dentist. These challenges, Dr. Grover said, include lack of oral health education, cost, fear and a belief that they don't need care.

"Dental therapists have failed to show meaningful results in addressing these barriers," Dr. Grover wrote. "A handful of states created this provider to treat underserved patients, especially in rural areas. But these patients are more likely to have complex dental disease and health issues that require the skill and training of a dentist to diagnose and treat."

In her letter, Dr. Grover noted, "Instead of having another provider to drill and fill teeth, we should better connect patients with a fully trained doctor of dentistry."

According to the ADA Health Policy Institute, the number of dentists in the United States is projected to increase through 2033.

In the case of helping educate patients on oral hygiene and prevention, and ensuring they make their appointments, Dr. Grover offered the Community Dental Health Coordinator as an alternative to therapists, noting that CDHCs can reduce patient no-show rates from nearly 50 percent to below 10 percent.

"Increasing access to care isn't about increasing the number of providers, it's about providing the right care by the right provider at the right time," concluded Dr. Grover.

Note: In most cases, the Wall Street Journal requires a subscription to access its articles online.