Support SB366 - Dental Therapy in Nevada

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Nevada is facing an oral health crisis. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 877,000 Nevadans, nearly 30% of the state’s population, reside in 71 communities designated as “Dental Care Health Professional Shortage Areas” (HPSAs). From Washoe to Clark, the problem is only anticipated to grow.
 
To remove Nevada’s HPSA designation, Health and Human Services estimates that hundreds of dental practitioners would be needed across the state. Fortunately, state lawmakers want to expand access to dental care by allowing dental therapists, a new classification of dental hygienists, to offer oral care treatments. Senator Julia Ratti, D-Washoe, recently introduced SB366 to permit midlevel providers to perform a variety of dental services, including fillings, simple extractions, the managing of dental trauma, and many others, after completed additional years of advanced education. This model is expected to provide a more diverse workforce and population served with less barriers.
 
“A multi- pronged approach should be considered to help improve health outcomes in Nevada. Removing barriers is a cost effective and feasible way to improve access to oral health services, reduce dental pain and suffering and minimize oral health disparities in our state."Lancette Van Guilder, RDH, BS - Legislative Chair, Nevada Dental Hygienist Association
 
The case for expanding the scope of practice for these midlevel providers is stronger now than it has ever been. In the coming years, Nevada is only expected to keep on trend for growth, with much of the population reaching retirement age and demanding more dental treatments.Midlevel providers can help satisfy Nevada’s oral health care needs. Dental hygienists, therapists, and assistants already provide a variety of routine treatments under the supervision of dentists in private practices, as well as community settings such as schools and nursing homes. Under the proposed bill, tele-dentistry would be a newly allowed avenue for dental therapist to work collaboratively to serve vulnerable populations by using new and innovative technology, while reducing social and geographic barriers to improve access to care.
 
Rural communities in particular stand to benefit from improved access to basic dental services.Nevada aims to model the success of Minnesota --- the first state to license midlevel dental therapists in 2009 --- which reports that half of the dental therapists in the state work in rural and remote areas of that state where dentists are scarce.
 
Yet, despite this success, dental associations continue to oppose allowing midlevel professionals to assist dentists in their work claiming that providers threaten to expose patients to substandard care.Nothing could be further from the truth.Dental therapists are similar to physician assistants or nurse practitioners on medical teams. They receive rigorous training in routine preventive and restorative procedures, such as filling cavities and performing extractions. When dental therapists provide routine dental care, dentists can focus on more complicated procedures.
 
Dental hygienists and therapists have proven to be safe and affordable providers of oral health care treatments in America and abroad. Lawmakers in the Silver State should free these qualified professionals to treat all Nevadans, especially the most vulnerable.