Viewpoint: Modernized care means lifting limits on dental therapists

To modernize healthcare practices, laws and regulations limiting dental therapists should be revised, according to a perspective piece published Feb. 12 in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Authored by eight directors of health workforce research centers, the commentary calls for states to revisit their scope-of-practice laws and regulations across health professions to keep patient well-being a priority.

Dental therapists are used in at least 50 countries, the authors wrote, but professional organizations representing dentists in the U.S. have successfully opposed legislation that would allow dental therapists to provide care in underserved communities.

"As leaders of public and private research centers who interact with and study the U.S. health workforce, we believe it's time to revise the country's antiquated patchwork of laws that restrict the health system's ability to innovate," the authors said.

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