September 13, 2020
To start, the concept of a dental therapist is the solution to the dental health disparities that exist in America, and affect mainly people of color. Specifically, a dental therapist would have less training than a dentist or a dental hygienist, but will still be able to maintain health habits and fix small issues with patients. The problem with this issue is that it has not completely been implemented into the law in many states. There is much precedent coming from Native American tribes, due to the strict laws and agreements that the US and Native tribes have with one another. The main advantage would be merely the addition of professionals to the field. The article explains how there is a shortage of dentists in the field, which means that there are many location within America that simply do not have dentists, The problem with this, is that not everyone can travel to get to a dentist, especially not those of lower socioeconomic status, As we have already gone over, an overwhelming majority of balck people in America are of lower socioeconomic due to the unaddressed effects of slavery and race based trauma that black people have experiences for over 400 years. So, this issue impacts black people disproportionately,because of overlapping social issues. Another advantage to this, would address the issue of health insurance for many marginalized groups. Many times, dentists will refuse to take Medicare, or government health care, because of the low prices that they pay or how long it takes to actually get the money. The government;s system for Medicare is not foolproof, and healthcare within this country is the bare minimum unless you are able to pay outrageous fees for private insurance. Being a dentist takes years of an undergraduate degree, in combination with Medical school and months and years of training and residency. To be a dental therapist on the other hand, it could be as simple as a 2 year vocational program after high school, or as complicated as attending a four years university, but still significantly less work and money for a fairly well paying career.(around $70,000 a year) With less school, the theory is that the dental therapist will have less debt to pay off, which would help to ease the issue of dentists not taking Medicare. If the dental therapist doesn;t need the money as much as someone who is paying off medical school loans, they may be more willing to take a small salary or wait for Medicare. Another advantage to a dental therapist position, would be opportunity for black and marginalized groups to obtain a job that they may not have to get a degree for. This could open up opportunities to way more people interested in the dental field that wouldn’t have otherwise been because of the amount of schooling or sacrifice. It also leaves room to widen the gap, because as the article states only 3% of dentists are black. Even though the country's population is 13% black. A disadvantage to dental therapy, could be that it lowers the value of a dental education. For example, if people can just do a 2 year program and not have any school debt or stress, they will begin to prefer that over dentist and dental hygienist positions, leaving a larger lack of dentists instead of rounding out the field, Other that that, I think the idea of implementing dental therapists is interesting and could truly work, but with the new laws needs to come a push for representation within the dental field. Without outreach, noone will know about this career option, but if it is publicized in combination with a response to the present inequities the dentistry, it could be a big solution.