The New Field of Dental Therapists
Today, nearly 17 million children are not getting proper dental care. Dental care is too expensive for many families. Many dentists do not accept Medicaid. Nationwide, in 2009 there were 830,000 visits to emergency rooms for dental problems that could have been prevented.
More children will become eligible for dental care through the Affordable Health Care law. An expert said, taxpayers will benefit from fewer trips to the hospital. Better dental care also could improve school attendance. For example, in California more than half a million children missed school in 2007 because of dental problems.
California and other states are searching for new ways to meet the demand, including the use of dental therapists
Dentists do not agree. They say dental therapists do not have enough education and training to perform surgical procedures such as filling cavities or pulling teeth.
In 2005 Alaska became the first state to use dental therapists. Minnesota authorized the new profession in 2009. The first graduates of their dental therapy programs began practicing last year.
California, New Hampshire, Oregon and Connecticut are considering creating programs for dental care therapists.
Paying for the Dentist – Dental Benefits vs. Dental Clubs
Dental insurance is not the same as health insurance. Dental benefits usually are very low, ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 annually. When dental benefits reach a maximum amount, the patient pays the rest out-of-pocket.
Dental benefits have not risen since the late 1970s. Companies like Delta Dental cover 56 million Americans.
The National Association of Dental Providers said that fewer than 3% of enrollees had costs higher than their benefit in 2009.
Dental clubs charge annual membership fees of $75 to $150. When a member needs a dentist, they are given a list to choose from. Club dentists charge discount prices to members, usually 60 percent lower than prices charged other patients. When patients need expensive care the discount rates may save thousands of dollars.
People should compare the cost of dental insurance and the cost of dental clubs to see which better meets their needs.