Wisconsin’s Path to Dental Therapy

Assembly Bill 668 aims to address gaps in oral healthcare by introducing dental therapists. Dental therapists will be authorized to engage in the limited practice of dentistry, enhancing access to dental services for communities in need. Here is an overview of the key provisions outlined in the bill and examines the potential impact on oral healthcare.

The bill outlines criteria for individuals seeking licensure as dental therapists. To qualify, candidates must have completed a qualifying dental therapy education program and successfully passed required examinations. Notably, these education programs must be accredited by the American Dental Association's Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).

Dental therapists will provide dental therapy services under the supervision of a dentist. A collaborative management agreement between the dental therapist and a dentist is a prerequisite, outlining various aspects of practice and supervision. The bill specifies the services, treatments, and procedures dental therapists are authorized to perform, subject to additional rules set by the board.

After accumulating 2,000 hours of practice, a dental therapist may operate under general supervision, though this level can be further restricted by collaborative management agreements. To ensure equitable access to oral healthcare, dental therapists must focus their practice on federally defined dental shortage areas or settings where at least half of their patients come from specified populations. This bill integrates dental therapists into existing healthcare laws, covering aspects such as health care records, volunteer health care provider programs, health care worker protection, and emergency volunteer health care practitioner regulations. Additionally, the bill introduces a loan forgiveness program under the health care provider loan assistance program for dental therapists.

The fight for dental therapy in other states continues. The possibility of Wisconsin moving forward with dental therapy is one step closer to improving oral health for many more communities in the US. For more information, visit: https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2023/proposals/ab668

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