The results of a national survey conducted a few months ago were released today:
Majority of Americans Support Mid-Level Dental Provider to Expand Access to Dental Care
Four-in-Ten Americans or Their Family Members Put Off Dental Care Due to Cost, according to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
BATTLE CREEK, Mich. – Millions of Americans cannot find affordable dental care in their communities and many want to explore mid-level providers as a way to improve their access to needed oral health care, according to a national survey released today by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
The survey reveals that many Americans are struggling to get the care that they need. Forty-one percent of Americans report they or someone in their household has put off dental care because of cost and 30% say they do not have a place to receive dental care.
Based on a poll of 1,023 adults, the survey, conducted by Lake Research Partners, finds that more than 80% of Americans believe it is difficult for people to get free or low-cost dental care in their communities, and think the number of Americans who cannot access dental care is a problem.
Here’s my thoughts on this survey: We are born with teeth, we don’t have to purchase them, so why should we have to keep paying for them? This mentality is what leads people to get away with the least cost for medical care as possible, because they don’t want to have to pay for something that they originally got for free. “Every tooth in a man’s head is more valuable than a diamond.” – Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote, 1605
So duh, of course the survey would reflect such an attitude. Whether it’s economically feasible to create a midlevel provider position or not shouldn’t even be in question; the current markets of dentists and hygienists are already flooded in metropolitan areas. The solutions should be incentive-based: forgiveness of school loans, possibly more independent preventive care delegation to hygienists in public health settings, much more education-based intervention, aggressive messages from AdCouncil or whatever it takes to get the word out that natural teeth are an investment; at the going rate a full set of implants is what? 50 grand? THERE’S your message.
Originally I posted this statement at Dr. Bicuspid but thought it could stand an airing-out here as well. And I know, as a card-waving member of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association you’d think I’d be all for the creation of a midlevel provider position, right? I probably would be, except for one thing: the current anticipated incomes of midlevel providers are significantly less than the average hygienist incomes in this country. It’s almost like there was a deal in the back corner of a committee, saying: hahaha, you GO to school two more years, girlie-girl. The dental boards will assure that it’s not economically worth your while to further your education.
Until the in-fighting between the militant factions of dentists and hygienists simmers, I believe that this survey only serves to get under the skin of those who will use it to justify their own stances. Something’s got to change though, when doctors and patients alike are excessively frustrated with some questionable treatments that are performed in dental clinics primarily funded with Medicaid dollars.
Here’s how I know something’s wrong with our government dental care programs: the majority of today’s Medicaid offices aren’t even hiring hygienists. So much for midlevel providers. So much for prevention.