Most people living in the United States experience dentist shortages, and this problem mainly faces families with low income, those living in the countryside, people with disabilities, and the uninsured. Besides that, adults and children with dental coverage through the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicaid also experience the same issue since only one-third of the United States dentists accept these insurance covers.
Who are Dental Therapists?
They are midlevel health providers and work in conjunction with dentists to offer patients with quality dental care. Oral Health Therapist is a licensed dental care provider who works with a dental care team to provide therapeutic and clinic care. Normally, they work with low-income, uninsured and marginalized people to help them get adequate dental care.
Oral health therapists perform some similar tasks as dental hygienist such as taking X-rays and cleaning teeth. They also help provide preventative treatment, dental check-ups, pulpotomies, and teeth removal.
It is good to note that oral dental therapists are autonomous practitioners, meaning they are primarily responsible for completing and formulating treatment options for patients. Nevertheless, since they are not dentists, there is a scope of practice in which they work. For instance, an oral dental therapist can do baby teeth extraction and filling, but cannot extract adult teeth.
What is the Difference Between a Dental Therapist and a Dentist?
Since dental therapists and dentists perform similar tasks, such as children’s teeth removal, it is difficult for most people to tell them apart. And although the industry roles and titles are a bit similar, they are not the same. However, they both play a significant role in maintaining and taking care of a patient’s oral health.
In terms of duties and roles, a dentist works with a patient to offer necessary dental treatments. They include treating dental injuries and issues, correcting dental irregularities, and offering preventive procedures. They mainly specialize in understanding the human body and oral disorders and diseases.
On the other hand, dental therapists carry sulk dental duties such as teeth cleaning, clinical examinations, and mouth screening. They also work with patients with oral habits, including alcohol drinking and smoking. Dental therapists are efficient in treating patients with physical disabilities and dental anxiety.
When it comes to education level and training, dental therapists tend to have shorter programs than dentists. To be a qualified and licensed dentist, you must attend a university full time for at least four years. During the four years, the student will attain theoretical, clinical and lab practices and information.
To be a licensed dental therapist, a student must achieve a diploma in dental therapy that takes around three years to complete. However, you can opt to take part-time dental hygienist classes if you want to become a dental therapist.
How Do Dental Therapists Help Dentists
Dentists and dental therapists work together to ensure that they offer the patient a gentle and thorough dental care. The dental therapists will take patients photographs and X-rays, and give them to the dentists to access. The dentist will then inspect all teeth and tissues surrounding the teeth.
After treatment, the therapist will spend some time with the patient and create a personalized experience that they might extend to home care programs. During the program routine, they will check and ensure your oral health is perfect, including preventing other dental disorders like gingivitis. After offering hygiene services, they will apply fluoride and develop a strategy for future dental maintenance appointments.
Where Can Dental Therapist Practice
Most states are passing laws authorizing oral dental therapists to perform roles similar to physician assistants in medicine. Five years ago, only five states had passed dental therapy regulations and laws meant to intensify dental health care access. The addition of states such as New Mexico, Nevada, Idaho, Connecticut, Michigan, and Arizona increased the number of states allowing dental therapy in the US to more than 15.
And although the use of dental therapist entered the United States in 2004, more than 50 countries used them to solve dental issues. In Connecticut and Nevada, oral dental therapists help patients with low-income, tribal health clinics, federally qualified health centers and uninsured. When Minnesota authorized dental therapists’ use, reports proved that dental health care workers and patients reported extreme contentment with dental therapists.
What is an Advanced Dental Therapist?
An ADT is a therapist certified by the board of dentistry. To be a licensed advanced dental therapist, they must go through advanced clinical and training practice that enables them to provide amenities that an oral dental therapist provides plus other extra services. These include non-surgical removal of teeth, treatment plan formulation, and oral assessment and evaluation.
And although they work under the supervision of an experienced and licensed dentist, the dentist does not require to consult the patient after or before receiving care. However, an ADT can supervise nonregistered or licensed dental assistants at any setting.
Other covered services that an ADT may perform include administering medication such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and analgesics. An ADT should never perform any oral treatment if the patient has an erupted, fractured, or impacted tooth.
Does Health Insurance Cover Work Done by Dental therapist?
Most Americans have dental coverage, most of which is private coverage. However, most Medicaid programs cover oral care only for children. Thus, it is crucial to know what you plan covers when you are shopping for dental coverage.
Most dental insurance policies cover the cost of fillings, preventative care, root canals, crowns, and oral surgery. Services that dental therapists cannot perform.
Is there an Advantage to Work with a Dental Therapist?
Both dental therapists and dentists can offer teeth cleaning services at unvarying hygiene checks. Nevertheless, working with a dental therapist comes with numerous hygiene benefits. This is because their profession majors in educating and cleaning.
And since dentists spend their time doing complex treatments, dental therapists spend time with patients, creating a personalized experience. Working with an oral health therapist will also reduce the treatment cost since they are cheaper than dentists.
Remember, gum and tooth disease can create an unwelcomed interruption, be expensive, and uncomfortable. Hence, preventing tooth disorders is the best option to avoid health disorders. And the aptitude to avoid such diseases relies on your access to the dental maintenance plan and knowledge on dental health.
A dental health therapist can help you attain the best oral health possible. And if you have a dental hygiene health plan, working with a dental therapist is the best option for you
The dental industry has a plethora of dental fields tailored to different types of practice management and roles. Dentists and oral health therapists are among the top dental professionals that share some roles but differ in different ways.
Patients often confuse between the two roles, including dental hygienist. Thus, it is crucial to understand the differences between a dentist, dental therapist, and dental hygienist. However, dental hygienist and dental therapist venture more on patient’s education on the significance of oral hygiene and health.
However, oral health therapists tend to have additional responsibilities compared to oral health hygienist. And although both differ in terms of roles, both professionals play a significant role in patient care and dental practice.
If you have no access to a dentist, a dental therapist is your best option. And if you have no insurance cover or income and need dental care, you can seek help from a dental therapist since they are affordable. However, you must ensure that you consult a dentist if you have a severe problem that requires oral surgery.