The North Dakota House on Wednesday defeated a bill (House Bill 1256) that would have allowed mid-level oral health care providers, called dental therapists, to obtain licenses and treat patients. Dentists would have remained responsible for the quality of care their employees provide, and no dentist would have been required to hire dental therapists. Dental therapy is a 95-year-old profession used by more than 50 countries to expand oral care services to under-served patients in rural and low-income regions.
On January 17, 2017, The Heartland Institute and the Texas Public Policy Foundation released a joint Policy Brief titled “The Case for Licensing Dental Therapists in North Dakota.”
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“By voting to continue North Dakota’s blockade of dental therapists, House lawmakers deprived dentists of their right to hire, and patients of their right to choose, qualified providers who would have lowered oral health care costs and increased access. All the House accomplished by banning dental therapists was blowing up a bridge by which innovative dentists might have reached under-served patients.
“The entrenched special-interest groups of dentists who opposed this measure may now congratulate themselves for robbing each other of a chance to innovate, grow their practices, and treat needy patients.”
“Had the bill passed, dentists would have maintained total control over staffing and responsibility for the quality of care of their practices.”
Ms. Grande represented the 41st District in the North Dakota Legislature from 1996 to 2014.
“Lawmakers in North Dakota chose to look backward, not forward, by rejecting dental therapy as an option for the people of their state. Liberalizing the dental workforce so that more people have access to basic dental care is the wave of the future. It’s a shame that special interests in North Dakota convinced lawmakers to restrict access to affordable dental care for those who most need it.”
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