New Dental Therapist Licensure Hopes to Increase Access to Dental Health Services for Vulnerable Populations

As of January of 2023, a newly signed state bill created licensure for a new category of dental workers – dental therapists. Dental therapists are trained to fill basic cavities, place temporary crowns, provide preventative care, and offer many of the most needed restorative procedures. The goal is to bolster the dental workforce with a more cost-effective option, facilitating increased access to critical dental services in communities underserved by oral health care. Four additional oral health bills also moved through legislation in recent weeks, including ratification of the Dentist and Dental Hygienist Compact, $20 million in funding for technical college oral health care programs, scholarships for Marquette University School of Dentistry students who practice in dental health shortage areas, and the assignment of reimbursement for dental services to a specific dental provider. View the official press release from the Office of the Governor here.

 “The dental therapist role makes it feasible for community health centers and community dental clinics to provide increased access to care and build their dental workforce in the communities that need it most,” said Matt Crespin, Executive Director, Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin (Alliance). “This is a significant step in the right direction, and we look forward to working with the dental community on additional implementation and integration strategies.” The Alliance, along with the Wisconsin Primary Health Care Association, led a coalition of more than 40 partner organizations that have supported and advocated for the passage of dental therapy for many years.

The Alliance convenes the Milwaukee Oral Health Coalition (MOHC), catalyzed and co-sponsored by the Milwaukee Health Care Partnership (MHCP). The MOHC has long advocated for improved access to dental care in Milwaukee County.

MOHC goals include informing state and local policy, enhancing care navigation and coordination, and improving Medicaid MCO dental access and network adequacy, among others. The coalition also works to monitor and support prevention, early intervention, and access for target populations, including children birth to school-aged, pregnant women, and people with special health care needs.