August 26, 2015
by Kahaliah Richards
This was a recent headline in the Los Angeles Times.
The article outlines a new California law that authorizes dental hygienists to treat cavities without a dentist on site by placing low-cost, temporary fillings.
The temporary fillings applied by the hygienist are called interim therapeutic restorations. They require no drilling or anesthetic and can be completed quickly and at a fraction of the cost of a traditional filling. By sealing off the cavity and slowly releasing fluoride, they can stop the progression of decay for several years, buying time until the tooth can be filled permanently.
The new procedure is part of a broader California program to expand dental care by dispatching hygienists to preschools, senior centers and other locations that serve children and adults who may not have access to a dentist. In this new model of dental care, called virtual or tele-dentistry, hygienists work remotely but in consultation with dentists, who review X-rays electronically and decide which teeth should be filled.
Spearheading the effort is Paul Glassman, a professor of dental practice at the University of the Pacific who spent years developing a model for low-cost care. Interim therapeutic restorations were tested on 900 patients throughout California over six years before the new law was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last fall.
“We hope that within a decade this is something that every hygienist will have the skills to do,” said Glassman, who led the training. “That it will become ubiquitous and a way to reach people who are not getting dental care.”
Most American and many Canadian dental plans will only pay for basic services (cleanings, x-rays etc.) and 50% for anything they consider complicated and then only up to $1500 annually. As the LA Times article said, a person can use that up in a single root canal.
Slowly but surely, dentistry is coming to grips with its issues about affordability. More preventive care is the most profound and sustainable approach to improving the affordability of better oral health.
By: Ross Perry
SOURCED: Partners In Prevention – http://partnersinprevention.ca/hygienists-treating-cavities-is-something-to-smile-about/
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