Arizona has joined the growing number of states that license dental therapists to expand access to high quality and cost-effective dental care.
On May 16, Gov. Doug Ducey (R) signed H.B. 2235, which garnered strong support from state lawmakers. The Arizona House of Representatives voted 47-13 on May 3 to pass the bill; the Senate approved it unanimously on April 19.
Including Arizona, seven states now authorize dental therapists in some capacity. A dozen more are exploring this commonsense health care fix.
Dental therapists serve as midlevel providers, similar to nurse practitioners, and are able to do the most routine preventive and restorative work, such as filling cavities and placing temporary crowns. They can deliver quality care to more patients and treat underserved populations. And that allows dentists to focus their time and skills on more complex procedures.
Millions of Arizonans have trouble accessing regular dental care. The state ranks fourth in the country for the percentage of its population living in federally designated dental shortage areas. This new law creates opportunities to efficiently and effectively reach those who have been unable to get care.
The broad bipartisan coalition that backed the measure—known as Dental Care for Arizona—included organizations and advocates from across the political spectrum. Members worked together for the past year to educate policymakers about the impact these providers could have in improving oral health access, particularly in rural and tribal communities.
“This bill is a win for every Arizonan. It is a win for bipartisanship, as our diverse coalition makes clear, and it’s a win for the state as a whole,” said Senator Nancy Barto (R), the bill’s sponsor. “We worked hard to bring all stakeholders to the table and the result is a bill that serves as model legislation for the rest of the country.”
John Grant is a director and Kristen Mizzi Angelone is an associate manager with The Pew Charitable Trusts’ dental campaign.