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State lawmakers asked to license dental therapists in Arizona

(Flickr/Conor Lawless)

PHOENIX – State lawmakers are being asked to consider adding dental therapists as licensed professionals in Arizona.

These new dental care providers would hold mid-level positions similar to the role that physician assistants and nurse practitioners play. Dental therapists would be able to provide a limited scope of dental procedures, such as cleanings, fillings, and some extractions.

Alicia Thompson, coordinator for the Southern Arizona Oral Health Coalition, said a handful of states already allow dental therapists to be licensed.

“It’s been proven to be very effective in helping children and other community members to have better oral health,” she said.

But even before the Arizona State Legislature can vote on a bill to license dental therapists, the Senate Health and Human Services and the House Health Committee of Reference has to approve it.

The two committees will hold a hearing Tuesday morning on a petition that would allow state lawmakers to decide whether dental therapists can become licensed providers. A similar petition failed to pass last year.

Thompson said dental therapists would be especially beneficial for “various communities that have really difficult access to care.” That includes rural communities.

Meanwhile, opponents such as the Arizona Dental Association are concerned about safety and the supervision of dental therapists.

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