Michigan Closer to More Available Dental Care

Mackinac Center recommendation passes Senate

The Michigan Senate recently passed Senate Bill 541, which would create a new license for the dental profession, called a dental therapist. Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, is the lead sponsor of the bill, and it moves to the House for consideration.

The Mackinac Center published a report last year laying out the case for dental therapists, and Michael Van Beek, the Center’s director of research and author of that study, recently published an op-ed in the Oakland Press. He summed up SB 541 this way:

This bill allows dentists the freedom to expand their practices and gives hygienists an opportunity to further their training and take on more responsibility if they choose to pursue a dental therapist license. Dentists need more flexibility to better meet patients’ needs and this could be an important part of that effort. Several other states have used dental therapists or similarly licensed professionals to help meet the needs of their residents — Michigan should simply follow their lead.

Too few Michiganders get the dental services they need, especially important preventative care, and creating a new category of dental providers will empower dentists to better meet these needs. Dental therapists would have a large scope of practice and be able to provide patients more services than dental hygienists, but would still be directly supervised by dentists. Creating this new license is a move in the right direction.

Find more coverage of this issue at WGVU.