To the editor,
A bill (HB 1426) has once again been introduced in the 2019 North Dakota Legislature to license a new category of dental provider, called a dental therapist. The bill has been proposed to reduce barriers to care in tribal communities and nonprofit dental clinics across the state by allowing lesser-trained providers to perform irreversible dental procedures with minimal supervision.
There is little evidence this concept improves quality of care, access to care, or reduces costs, particularly in a rural state like North Dakota. This provider model is based primarily on limited data from Minnesota.
Similar legislative bills were introduced in North Dakota in 2015 and 2017 and failed, affirming our position that the dental therapy model is not the right solution for North Dakota. North Dakotans, regardless of socioeconomic status, deserve quality dental care from the highest-trained professionals. Dental therapy's proposed focus on low-income and underserved patients incentivizes discrimination and puts the neediest, most complex cases a step further from a dentist. We believe the best way to expand access to care is to continue to partner and focus on education, prevention, collaboration, and outreach specific to our state, which are strategies that are currently showing positive results.
Every North Dakotan deserves a fully-trained dentist and access to high-quality care. Please join us in urging legislators to vote "no" on HB 1426.
Dr. Jackie Nord
This letter is co-signed by Dr. Dave Olson, president of the North Dakota Dental Association.