Milwaukee, WI— Wisconsin citizens continue to hear from government, health care, and community groups that support dental therapy as one solution to help to end the oral health crisis in Wisconsin. Experts with varying political views agree that dental therapists can serve Wisconsin families. This week government, health care and community leaders met at Next Door, a neighborhood community center in Milwaukee to discuss a plan that help alleviate the crisis.
Dental therapists, providers similar to physician assistants in medicine that work under the supervision of a dentist, could help underserved populations including children, veterans, and older Americans. A large and growing coalition of more than 50 groups across the political spectrum have endorsed this crucial oral health care role. Some of the many groups include schools,hospitals, health plans, and public policy groups.
Wisconsin State Rep. Mary Felzkowski, who has authored a bill that would allow the licensing of dental therapists said “This is not a partisan issue. This is a human issue. This is one more tool in the toolbox to help us get the dental care to the people who need it.”
Most Wisconsin counties – 64 of 72– face dental shortages, affecting 1.2 million residents. And, in Wisconsin more than 41,000 emergency room visits for preventable dental conditions were reported by hospitals in the most recently available annual data, representing nearly $25 million in hospital charges.
At a recent community event on oral health care Dr. Emilia Arana, a Pediatrician at the Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers in Milwaukee said “Dental caries is an extremely common infectious disease. Caries is the most common chronic condition of children and it is preventable. Dental decay is five times more common than asthma. It’s four times more common than obesity and twenty times more common than diabetes. It affects quality of life and has a negative effect on a child’s health and performance. Dental therapy is the next level of care we need. I’m hopeful it will be approved.”
Currently, dental therapists are authorized to practice in 10 states, and at least a dozen more are considering legislation. Michigan authorized the profession late last year In Minnesota, where dental therapy was authorized in 2009, communities across the state have seen an increase in overall oral health care access. Authorizing dental therapists in Wisconsin could provide similar results for Wisconsin families