The future of the mid-level dental provider in Massachusetts
Liti, Ajisa Markella
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This paper demonstrates the need for expanding the Massachusetts dental workforce to include the Advanced Dental Hygiene Practitioner (ADHP), a model successfully used globally for many decades in other countries, to better serve its underserved populations. The underserved population includes children, the elderly, minorities, people with disabilities, and MassHealth members who suffer the most severe consequences from the lack of dental access. Although the first dental therapist was not employed in the United States until 2005 in Alaska, an attempt to increase access by introducing a new member to the dental workforce dates back to 1949 in Massachusetts. However, Massachusetts has yet to include any variation of mid-level providers as part of their dental workforce despite several attempts due to continued opposition from the American Dental Association and organized dentistry. Incorporating ADHPs into the dental care delivery system would help increase access to individuals while lessening the burden placed on the state’s principal dental safety net to those who 1) cannot find a dental provider in their area, 2) cannot find a dentist who accepts Medicaid and/or 3) cannot afford dental care. Evidence has long indicated that dental therapists provide cost-effective, safe, quality dental care.