Dental therapists receive specialized training that allows them to administer local anesthesia, perform x-rays, exams, fill cavities, pull teeth and even perform root canals. With nearly 17 million children in the country currently lacking basic dental care, dental therapists are expected to help fill the existing gap in dental care and coverage.
The majority of the children and their families do not have California dental insurance. They tend to live in areas without enough dentists or they simply can't find members of the dental community who accept Medicaid. Problems accessing dentists in California could grow dramatically in 2014 when millions of more children are expected to get dental insurance under the (ACA) Affordable Care Act.
The (ADA) American Dental Association argues that dental therapists aren't adequately trained to perform the major dental work that has typically been performed by fully licensed and trained dentists. Dental lobbies in California are arguing that high school graduates with a few years of training could end up performing delicate procedures with permanent and irreversible consequences if done incorrectly.
The Children's Dental Campaign for the Pew Center on the States, and other research and advocacy groups counter that concerns about insufficient training and substandard quality are completely unfounded and are just an anticipated reaction from dental association groups whose main purpose is to protect the incomes and livelihoods of existing dentists.
They say that the therapists would be properly trained, educated, and supervised to help close the huge and growing gaps in dental care which are causing an oral health disease epidemic across the country today. Nationwide, nearly 830,000 emergency room visits in 2009 were due to preventable dental problems, according to the center. The amount of money, pain, and suffering saved by eliminating most of those visits not to mention the increase in productivity of those effected could make a real difference in thousands of families and businesses across the country.