By Nyesha Stone
State Rep. Mary Felzkowski is putting the dentistry industry at the forefront by authoring a bill that would allow the licensing of dental therapists in Wisconsin. According to a press release, 64 of 72 Wisconsin counties face dental shortages which is affecting 1.2 million residents.
Dental therapists are above a dental hygienist and right below a dentist. By licensing and hiring dental therapists, Felzkowski said access to dental hygiene for low-income, minority and rural areas will increase.
“This is a pathway to get [people] to the oral care that they need,” said Felzkowski. “We can get it done, but it’s going to take strong voices to get it done.”
Under Assembly Bill 81, one dentist would be able to overlook five dental therapists. The bill states: “Supervision by a dentist requires the dentist’s prior knowledge and consent but does not require the presence of the dentist at the time a task or procedure is being performed or prior examination or diagnosis of a patient by a dentist prior to the provision of dental therapy services by a dental therapist.”
The dental therapist would also be subjected to a collaborative management agreement, which means although the therapist may be equipped to do 90 procedures, they would have to follow certain guidelines under the main dentist, on what procedures they’re allowed to do at that specific practice.
Felzkowski held a discussion at Next Door to hopefully encourage other organizations and stake holders to put the pressure on to get this bill to pass. As of right now, Wisconsin Dental Association and Marquette University School of Dentistry isn’t in support of the bill, for reasons that weren’t clearly stated at the discussion.
CEO of Social Development Commission George Hinton said this time Marquette is wrong. He said Milwaukee has sizeable dental deserts, and he said this bill is an opportunity to increase the supply of labor in dentistry.
“The community needs the resource,” referring to the bill. And we “need our community to demand the resources we need,” Hinton said. He said there are way too many instances of people getting their teeth pulled instead of recovered.
“We have to find ways to level the playing field,” said Hinton.
To find out more about Assembly Bill 81, visit https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2019/proposals/ab81.