COLUMBUS - State Senators Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) and Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) today announced the introduction of legislation aimed at creating a new level of dental care providers in Ohio, known as dental therapists.

Similar to a physician's assistant, a dental therapist would work under the supervision of a dentist and would be specifically trained to provide preventive care in the form of dental health education, evaluations, fluoride treatment, simple fillings and non-surgical extractions. 

Senate Bill 98 would establish the licensure of dental therapists and close the income gap to accessible and high-quality dental care.

"Access to dentists in low-income areas in Ohio is a serious health problem," said Senator Lehner. "Low income adults are most likely to report having problems due to the condition of their mouth and teeth."

Fifty-four other nations use dental therapists. In 2012, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation reviewed 1,100 studies of such programs and concluded that “the quality of the technical care provided by dental therapists—within the scope of their practice—was comparable to that of a dentist and in some studies was judged superior.”

In other states, like Alaska and Minnesota, dental therapists are used primarily in dental shortage areas. The creation of a new dental therapy profession could bring significant relief to areas in Ohio affected by provider shortages.

“So many areas in Ohio lack adequate dental services," said Senator Thomas, who is jointly sponsoring the bill with Lehner. "The need for access to dental care has been identified in 58 of Ohio’s 88 counties. This lack of dental care has a greater impact on the low-income population. We need to address access to professional dental care in Ohio so all Ohioans get the care they deserve.”

Dental therapists are trained to provide preventive care and basic routine services for less than what a dentist would charge. This helps in rural communities and allows for dentists to focus on more complex patient cases. 

Senate Bill 98 has been referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Health, Human Services and Medicaid for further consideration.

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