Phoenix—The Goldwater Institute today unveiled a new report that provides an in-depth look at the oral healthcare issues facing Arizona. Most notably, the report reveals the restrictive government policies that create artificial barriers to accessible and affordable dental care in Arizona. The study’s authors propose an innovative, affordable approach to addressing the state’s looming oral health crisis.
A mid-level dental license, called dental therapy, should be created to allow dental therapists to carry out routine dental procedures. In Arizona, dentists are licensed to perform more than 400 procedures. Dental therapists would be licensed to perform approximately 80 of those procedures.
“The support and evidence for mid-level dental providers can no longer be ignored,” said Naomi Lopez Bauman of the Goldwater Institute. “It is time for Arizona to join more than a dozen states that already allow or are now considering dental therapists to increase access to dental care for their residents.”
The report, “The Reform That Can Increase Dental Access and Affordability in Arizona,” was authored by Naomi Lopez Bauman, director of Healthcare Policy at the Goldwater Institute, and John Davidson, senior fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. The findings of the report include the following:
- In 2014 alone, 27,000 Arizonans resorted to hospital emergency departments for preventable dental conditions. Medicaid, which is funded by taxpayers, paid for 56 percent of these visits.
- More than half of the state's children in kindergarten have a history of tooth decay and more than one-quarter have untreated tooth decay.
- 75 percent of American Indian third graders in Arizona have a history of tooth decay.
- Only one-third of Arizona dentists participate in the state’s AHCCCS program.
- Arizona is currently only meeting 31 percent of its oral healthcare needs, lagging behind the national average as well as neighboring states. This is based on a federal measure where there is one or fewer dentists per 5,000 people in a geographic area.
The report authors encourage Arizona lawmakers to adopt a dental therapy license to help provide better access to and affordability of dental care. The safety and quality track record for dental therapy is long and well documented. In addition to decades of experience in more than 50 countries around the world, more than 1,000 studies and evaluations confirm that dental therapists provide safe and quality care for dental patients.
“While there is no silver bullet to fix the problems facing the American healthcare system, we do know that market-based reform, such as expanding scope of practice laws like allowing dental therapy to be performed by dental therapists, can promote health care access, choice, and affordability,” said Lopez Bauman. “Rather than waiting on federal lawmakers to do something about healthcare, state lawmakers can—and should—seize the opportunity today to promote health care access and affordability in Arizona.”