The James Madison Institute (JMI), a think tank based out of Tallahassee which supports free market solutions, released a study on Wednesday which warned about a dental care shortage in Florida over the next decade.
“Florida faces a growing shortage of dental care over the next decade, a challenge that will only worsen the $322 million cost of emergency room dental care for Floridians who cannot see a dentist on their own,” JMI insisted on Wednesday. “To combat the problem, the report says, state licensing regulations should be reformed to let the market determine the number and types of Florida’s dental care providers, including the relatively new innovation of dental therapists.”
JMI released the study entitled “Dental Therapists: Sinking Our Teeth into Innovation Workforce Reform” which “found that Florida lags 16 percent behind the national average in dentists per 100,000 residents, and roughly one in four Floridians – about 5.5 million people – live in areas of the state where there are documented shortages of dentists.”
Sal Nuzzo, JMI’s vice president of policy and one of the authors of the study, weighed in on the findings.
“The single most impactful way that policymakers can improve the overall trajectory of dental care in Florida is to embrace the innovation present through allowing dental therapists to practice their services,” Nuzzo said. “As the dental therapy workforce continues to grow in the U.S., policymakers will have the opportunity to reduce costs and expand access to quality dental care for individuals who have been underserved throughout the years.”
Jennifer Minjarez, a policy analyst at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, also wrote the study and she offered her take on it.
“Florida lawmakers should embrace a practical market-based health policy reform that enables dental therapists to meet Florida’s diverse demand for dental care. Implementing new policies that accommodate dental therapy would encourage the development of a highly-skilled health care profession, expand access to care, and improve the health of millions of Floridians,” said Minjarez.
“Dental therapists are mid-level dental practitioners whose scope of practice is primarily focused on routine preventative and restorative care. They work within a dental team and under the supervision of a dentist and have the ability to provide quality dental care at lower costs for more individuals,” JMI noted. “Florida is home to several special populations who often have unique oral health needs. Individuals 65 years and older make up one-fifth of the Florida population and usually have a greater need for dental care. In addition, 30 of the state’s 67 counties are designated rural areas in which only 2.4 percent of Florida’s general dentists practice.
“Over the next 10-20 years, Florida’s population will continue to explode. Florida policymakers will face serious and substantive decisions regarding access and delivery of healthcare services. Dental care should be among the top priorities,” JMI added.