FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
January 23, 2019
Logan Elizabeth Padgett
New JMI Report Urges Dental Workforce Reform to Expand Care and Patient Access for Millions of Floridians
TALLAHASSEE – Florida faces a growing shortage of dental care over the next decade, a challenge that will only worsen the $322 million cost of emergency room dental care for Floridians who cannot see a dentist on their own, a new study by The James Madison Institute (JMI) finds. To combat the problem, the report says, state licensing regulations should be reformed to let the market determine the number and types of Florida’s dental care providers, including the relatively new innovation of dental therapists.
The report, “Dental Therapists: Sinking Our Teeth into Innovation Workforce Reform,” found that Florida lags 16 percent behind the national average in dentists per 100,000 residents, and roughly one in four Floridians – about 5.5 million people – live in areas of the state where there are documented shortages of dentists.
“The single most impactful way that policymakers can improve the overall trajectory of dental care in Florida is to embrace the innovation present through allowing dental therapists to practice their services. As the dental therapy workforce continues to grow in the U.S., policymakers will have the opportunity to reduce costs and expand access to quality dental care for individuals who have been underserved throughout the years,” said Sal Nuzzo, one of the authors of the study and JMI’s Vice President of Policy.
Dental therapists are mid-level dental practitioners whose scope of practice is primarily focused on routine preventative and restorative care. They work within a dental team and under the supervision of a dentist and have the ability to provide quality dental care at lower costs for more individuals.
“Florida lawmakers should embrace a practical market-based health policy reform that enables dental therapists to meet Florida’s diverse demand for dental care. Implementing new policies that accommodate dental therapy would encourage the development of a highly-skilled health care profession, expand access to care, and improve the health of millions of Floridians,” concluded Jennifer Minjarez, the second author of the report and a policy analyst at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
Florida is home to several special populations who often have unique oral health needs. Individuals 65 years and older make up one-fifth of the Florida population and usually have a greater need for dental care. In addition, 30 of the state’s 67 counties are designated rural areas in which only 2.4% of Florida’s general dentists practice.
Over the next 10-20 years, Florida’s population will continue to explode. Florida policymakers will face serious and substantive decisions regarding access and delivery of healthcare services. Dental care should be among the top priorities.
The James Madison Institute’s policy brief is available at: https://jamesmadison.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/PolicyBrief_DentalTherapy_2019_v01.pdf
Florida’s premier free-market think tank, The James Madison Institute is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational organization. The Institute conducts research on such issues as health care, taxes, and regulatory environments.
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