At the Capitol on Wednesday, a Senate Committee heard hours of testimony on a bill to create a dental therapist license in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Dental Association President Patrick Tepe is opposed. Authorizing dental therapy will not impact the cost of dental care. It will not bring the cost down for patients, it will not bring the cost down for the state. It will not bring the cost down for dental insurers, or for employers. The only one that’s going to save is the employer of the dental therapist” Tepe told members of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services. “I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, but we have to be clear on it. This is not going to save the Medicaid program money. This is not going to save the state money, this is not going to save the patients money.”
Supporters said the bill is designed to be part of efforts to address a dentist shortage in rural areas and under served communities. Dental therapists are a step below a dentist, but can work in coordination with them.
Matt Crespin is with the Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin.”You know we talked about is the cost going to go down? Well it’s not going to go down, because you know what else isn’t going to go down, the quality of care that’s being provided to the patient. Because those dental therapists are trained at the same standards that dentists are trained to,” Crespin said.
T.R. Williams with the Wisconsin Primary Health Care Association said that care provided by dental therapists is in no way “second class”
“So although it hasn’t been declared necessarily that dental therapy is somehow supporting second tier service for second class people, I want to be super explicit in my testimony to say that the legacy of community health centers, the pedigree of our providers at all levels in the oral health, primary health and behavioral health that we do, doesn’t sit well with second class service for second class citizens.”
In addition to the state Dental Association, the bill is opposed by Marquette University, home to Wisconsin’s only dental school.