Have a Heart for Kids Day rally, 2015

Report: New dental provider works

Adam 04/26/12


A recently released report reveals that a new kind of health care provider, like the one proposed in the state Legislature last session, can effectively serve children and families who have a hard time getting affordable dental care.

This new report, an assessment of more than 1,100 documents, is the most comprehensive review to date of the literature on mid-level dental providers. It indisputably demonstrates that these providers successfully extend safe, cost-effective, and competent care to children worldwide. Not one document reviewed in this all-inclusive study found evidence of compromises to children's safety or quality of care.

The report comes at a time when more and more people are recognizing that our current dental system can’t get kids the care they need.

As ABC News reported last week, millions of children who have health insurance can’t find a dentist. Here in Washington, just 1 in 4 dentists accept patients covered by Medicaid, a substantial part of Apple Health for Kids, which covers 4 in 10 children in the state. Some children wait months to get care.

Health care reform will bring 200,000 more of our state’s kids into the dental insurance market. With those soon-to-be-insured patients on their way in 2014, it’s a good time to recognize that coverage alone doesn’t afford oral health care.

The Children’s Alliance and a broad coalition of allies are calling on state lawmakers to create a mid-level provider here, as a way to expand dental care access to children and families who needlessly suffer. Like physician assistants or nurse practitioners, licensed dental practitioners can work as part of the dental team to make care more available to people across the state.

The report also documents the cost-effective care that mid-level practitioners have provided worldwide to children for decades, as well as the flexibility of the model to fit a variety of community health needs. We can adapt the model so it is perfect for Washington.

Our work to introduce this new gateway to oral health care is a crucial part of making sure children get the health care they need to succeed. Not all do. Washington state’s low-income children are 44 percent more likely to have experienced tooth decay by third grade than middle- or high-income children. Children of color are 18 percent more likely to be coping with tooth decay by the same age than others.

We need your help to bring a new workforce model to Washington state. Have you or a member of your family ever had to go without dental care because you couldn’t find affordable treatment? We want to know. Your experience could give legislators the push they need to bring more affordable, accessible oral health care to our state soon.