by Brenée Goforth
Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
Pew Charitable Trusts has linked out to a video from Carolina Journal Radio about dental therapy in North Carolina. The video is an interview with the country’s first advanced dental therapist, Christy Jo Fogarty, and the possibility of expanding dental therapy into North Carolina.
North Carolina has a serious shortage of dental professionals in the state. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as of December 31, 2018, North Carolina had 165 dental Health Professional Shortage Areas spanning the population of over 2.5 million people. One possible way to address this shortage in the state is to allow for the entry of dental therapists. Healthcare researcher Jordan Roberts explains what a dental therapist does:
Dental therapists are highly trained mid-level dental practitioners who provide basic preventive and restorative care under the supervision of a dentist. They are similar to physician assistants in general medicine… Dental therapists’ scope of practice generally includes most of the same competencies maintained by dental hygienists, plus expertise in routine restorative procedures such as drilling and filling cavities, simple extractions, and stainless steel crowns.
In her interview, Fogarty explains:
One of the things that has been recognized nationally is that there is a shortage of dentists… We are finding that about, for every three dentists that retire… we only have about two dentists coming out of medical school…
In addition, you have this group or population who struggle to find access to dentists… and dental therapists can help dental offices open up and close that access-to-care issue.