AGD criticizes Kellogg dental therapist report

The Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) has joined the ADA and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry in voicing concerns over the latest report from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation supporting dental therapists.

In a statement issued April 10, the AGD contended that the Kellogg report "is presented in the context of a political movement," not in the context of what is in the best interest of the American people and their oral health.

"Members of the public may not be aware of all the dangers to their long-term health that can result from being treated by lesser-educated healthcare workers," said AGD president Howard Gamble, DMD. "Dental therapists are nondentists and can have as little as two years of post-high school education before going on to perform clinical dental procedures that may be irreversible, operating high-speed drills, and pulling teeth, without the direct supervision of a dentist."

What the review fails to report is any direct link between the introduction in the U.S. of dental therapists performing irreversible procedures without the direct supervision of dentists, and improved overall oral health outcomes, added W. Carter Brown, DMD, of the AGD's Professional Relations Committee.

Joseph Battaglia, DMD, AGD Dental Practice Council chair acknowledged that our current safety net in the U.S. has holes, but the holes are not the quality of care provided by the current dental team. "The holes are in the shortcomings in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' treatment of oral health and in the low rates of utilization of benefits stemming from a lack of public understanding about the importance of oral health."

According to the AGD, if Kellogg and Pew would fund prevention programs in the schools, dentistry has plenty of people in their workforce to take care of this need.

"The safe and proven solutions are readily available and right at the fingertips of the dental profession; however, finances and support provided by foundations like Kellogg are necessary to implement them," the AGD stated.

According to the AGD, these proven solutions include:

  • Student loan repayment programs targeted at serving the underserved
  • Utilization of recent graduates to provide care in underserved communities
  • Simple improvements to Medicaid to enable greater Medicaid participation
  • A stronger public health infrastructure that focuses on establishing "dental homes" under the supervision of licensed dentists
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