Report

White Paper: Expanding the Dental Safety Net

  • July 31, 2012

Recent research from the University of Connecticut suggests that adding dental therapists to Federally Qualified Health Clinics (FQHCs) could significantly expand the availability of care for millions of American children.

In particular, by including dental therapists as providers in school-based programs operated by FQHCs, the researchers estimated states could provide access to care for 6.7 million Medicaid-eligible children, nationwide.[i] Moreover, the analysis also suggests that this significant increase in access could be realized for a cost of approximately $1.8 billion — just one half of 1 percent of combined state and federal 2009 Medicaid spending.[ii]

While the University of Connecticut study is the first of its kind and further research is needed, these promising, preliminary findings underscore the urgency of such additional analysis and, more broadly, for the expansion of the dental workforce throughout the dental safety-net system. This white paper reviews the study's findings and provides context from states where allied dental providers and school-based delivery models are already in place. Expanding the Dental Safety Net also offers recommendations for policy makers as well as other stakeholders to help them support the development and systemic integration of allied dental providers to ensure all children can receive the critical dental care they need.

For more information on allied dental providers, please see: Help Wanted.

For more information on issues of access to care, please see: Making Coverage Matter.

For more information on the financial impact that dental therapists would have on private dental practices, please see: It Takes a Team 


[i] Bailit, H., Beazoglou, T., DeVitto, J., McGowan, T., Myne-Joslin, V. “Impact of Dental Therapists on Productivity and Finances: III. FQHC Run School-Based Dental Care Programs.” (2012) Journal of Dental Education (in press) pg 8.

[ii] It is estimated that it would cost $1.8 billion to provide care for 6.7 million children in school settings. It is estimated that total federal and state Medicaid spending in FY 2009 is $366,471,017,061. $1.8 billion represents 0.047% of this spending. Bailit, H., Beazoglou, T., DeVitto, J., McGowan, T., Myne-Joslin, V., “Impact of Dental Therapists on Productivity and Finances: III. FQHC Run School-Based Dental Care Programs.” (2012) Journal of Dental Education (in press); Kaiser Family Foundation. “State Health Facts.” Accessed February 15, 2012 http://www.statehealthfacts.org/comparemaptable.jsp?ind=177&cat=4