Letter: Bill would expand access to dental care in Colorado
In Colorado, we have an access problem for dental care. Five counties don’t have a single dental provider, forcing people to drive long distances for routine dental care, and overdue checkups. To make matters worse, 53 of Colorado’s 64 counties are designated as a dental health professional shortage area.
One problem is that there aren’t enough providers. Mid-level dental providers, or dental therapists, can help fill that gap. The lack of dentists, and subsequent poor access to dental care, will only get worse as the current dental workforce heads toward retirement. Dental therapists could be part of the solution.
Dental therapists are comparable to physician assistants. They are licensed to do more than a dental hygienist but not as much as a dentist. Working under the supervision of a dentist, dental therapists provide routine preventive and restorative care such as cleanings, fillings and simple extractions.
Right now, a bill is at the Capitol in the Colorado legislature to do just that. SB22-219 would create the license and licensure process for dental therapists in Colorado.
This won’t negatively impact dentists. Dental therapists complement the dental team, and provide routine oral health care at places like dentist offices, nursing homes, community clinics and school-based health clinics. They fix small problems before they become big ones.
This new mid-level provider can add to the benefit and value of a dentist’s practice. Thirteen states have authorized and licensed the practice of dental therapy already. Therapists can add capacity to see more patients, and provide care at a more affordable cost. This is a way for Colorado to expand access to quality and safe dental care for people who need dental services.
Access to dental care is essential for both oral and overall health. Without an adequate number of providers, countless Coloradans will continue to forgo dental care, leading to more significant oral health — and overall health — issues later. Dental therapists offer a cost-effective, quality solution.
Please write or call our legislators and ask them to support what 13 other states already have done.
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