November 22, 2022

AGD Responds to Advisory Committees’ Support for Dental Therapy

  • by AGD Washington Advocacy Representative
  • Sep 28, 2022
In a letter addressed to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the AGD expressed its deep concerns with recommendations put forward by the Advisory Committee on Training in Primary Care Medicine and Dentistry’s (ACTPCMD) 19th Annual Report. The report, Supporting Dental Therapy Through Title VII Programs: A Meaningful Strategy for Implementing Equitable Oral Health Care, recommends, as its title suggests, that HRSA provide funding to support dental therapy to achieve more equitable oral health care.

AGD challenged the notion raised by the Committee that “the technical quality of care provided by dental therapists within their scope of competency is comparable to that of a dentist.” In the letter, AGD explains that dental therapists who practice without the supervision of a dentist are not equipped to treat the unique medical needs of patients, especially those in underserved communities. Dental therapists lack the same educational rigor and training that dentists must acquire to practice and that is necessary to provide patients with optimal oral health care.

AGD also challenged the notion that oral health access is caused by a shortage of dentists and argued that funding dental therapy will not bridge the gap for underserved communities. AGD offered several recommendations that will increase access to care and incentivize practice in underserved areas. These recommendations included providing tax credits for establishing and operating a dental practice in an underserved area, offering scholarships and student loan relief to dental students in exchange for practicing in an underserved area, providing funding to fill critically necessary dental hygienist and dental assistant positions that became vacant through the pandemic, and supporting oral literacy programs and funding, among other recommendations.

Impact on General Dentistry: The AGD strongly supports HRSA programs that seek to effectively increase equity in, and access to, oral health care. AGD’s recommendations are rooted in sound, evidence-based policies that the association believes will provide significant benefits to the underserved, without comprising oral health outcomes.