Barriers to Dental Care: How the Current Dental Practice Laws and Workforce Model are Hindering Equal Access to Dental Care for the Citizens of Indiana

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Audra Bogucki


Indiana has a problem with the lack of adequate access to dental care.
There are not enough dentists to care for its citizens' dental needs and
the cost of care is unaffordable for many Hoosiers. In this paper we
will examine three possible solutions. One option is to do nothing and
hope that dental insurance carriers will increase benefits and lower
out of pocket costs. Additionally, we can also hope that the number of
employers offering dental benefits will increase. The second solution
is to increase the number of dentists educated and trained in Indiana.
IUPUI has the only school in Indiana offering a Doctor of Dental Surgery
(DDS) degree. However, increasing this number is harder than it sounds
as the cost to run a dental school is high and students must complete a
minimum of eight years of college to receive the degree. The third option
is to expand the dental workforce model. The Indiana legislators could
change the laws to allow independent practice of dental hygiene and the
practice of dental therapy. This would expand access to dental care by
allowing hygienists to open dental hygiene offices. Current hygienists
could take a two year course to learn basic restorative techniques and
become dental therapists. A dental therapist office is less expensive as
patients visiting such an office need not pay the higher dentist fees. The
saving could be passed along to Hoosiers through more affordable care.
The states can then more readily open dental clinics since the cost to
run these clinics is lower thus increasing the number of dental offices all
around the state.

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