Dentists are on their way to becoming COVID-19 vaccine administrators in Wisconsin.
After receiving bipartisan support and the governor’s recent signature, a new bill passed allowing dentists to administer the vaccine at dental practices. Dentists are required to complete an eight-hour course and training on vaccine storage, protocols, administration technique, emergency procedures, and record keeping.
Dental Therapy Legislation Update
Access to dental care is a critical issue in many regions of Wisconsin, especially in rural areas.
In an effort to help address this problem, Delta Dental of Wisconsin (DDWI) supports proposed legislation (Senate Bill 181) that would allow dental therapists to practice in dental shortage areas throughout the state. DDWI provided written and in-person testimony in support of this legislation.
Dental therapists perform a limited scope of services (less than a dentist, but more restorative care than a hygienist).
The services dental therapists can provide, such as fillings and certain extractions, are some of the most commonly needed dental treatments to help get individuals out of dental pain and reduce the need for more expensive treatments down the road.
To be able to provide services in Wisconsin, dental therapists need to graduate from an approved program (as outlined in the legislation) and complete 2,000 postgraduate clinic hours under a dentist’s direct supervision before they could practice without a dentist present. Dental therapists only perform tasks and procedures with the knowledge and consent of their supervising dentist. Claims for services will be paid per plan benefits. Non-dentists are not listed in DDWI provider directories (similar to dental hygienists), however any added locations would be included in access point counts under the supervising dentist.
Dental therapists will be required to operate in a Dental Health Professional Shortage Area (DHPSA) or see a patient base of which at least 50% of patients are on medical assistance, uninsured, living in long-term care facilities, have trouble accessing dental care because of a disability, or veterans.
Adding dental therapists will help improve access to care for all residents in the state, not just the underserved.
DDWI recently provided a grant to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to conduct a survey of all dentists in Wisconsin. This survey collected data on practice locations, practice and provider demographics, and years until anticipated provider retirement. The results identify where dental shortages exist today, and where there may be critical shortages in the future. Twelve counties are identified as having dental provider to population shortages, and of those, at least four will have substantial retirements occurring in the next five years. The results show that dental workforce issues impact both underserved and insured populations, and dental therapists could help fill critical gaps in access.
Information above provided by Delta Dental of Wisconsin.