Millions of Arizonans struggle to access the dental care they need to lead healthy, productive lives. People go without care because they cannot afford it, cannot find a dentist who will take their insurance, cannot get to the dentist during weekday working hours, or live in an area where there is a shortage of dentists.

To address this problem, Arizona urgently needs to increase access to quality dental care that does not create additional government programs and cost. A proposal submitted to the Legislature would initiate legislation to authorize use of midlevel dental providers, known as dental therapists, who can help expand opportunities to efficiently and effectively serve patients and increase dentists’ revenue.

Dental therapists are similar to physician assistants or nurse practitioners on medical teams. They receive rigorous training in routine preventive and restorative procedures, such as filling cavities and placing stainless steel crowns. When dental therapists provide routine dental care, dentists can focus on more complicated procedures.

Current gaps in care are costly for the state. When people cannot get dental care, they sometimes visit emergency rooms for relief of their symptoms—an expensive and inefficient use of limited health care dollars. A lack of access to dental care especially affects low-income families, children covered by Medicaid, the elderly, people with disabilities, American Indians, and those living in rural communities.

Every one of Arizona’s 15 counties has at least some portion designated as a dental health professional shortage area.

The facts about what I do, how I do it, my training and my impact

  • I am committed to improving the lives of my patients.
  • I am well-trained to provide about 80 dental procedures.
  • I am trained to CODA standards.
  • I provide excellent care.
  • I am connected to the communities in which I serve.
  • I often live in or travel to rural, underserved areas to increase access to high-quality, safe care.
  • I help decrease wait times for appointments.
  • I help dentists use their time more effectively by freeing them to work at the top of their license.
  • I complement dentists’ work, I do not compete with them.
  • As a dental therapist, I am part of a dental care delivery model that’s been in use in over 54 countries for almost 100 years.
  • Evaluations of our work show that we provide care that is equivalent to care provided by dentists.
  • I work under a collaborative practice agreement with dentists to expand availability of dental services in clinics, private practices and in non-traditional settings.
  • I can work remotely, outside of the dental clinic or to extend clinic hours, and always under the supervision of a dentist.

How a dental therapist cares for her community

Alaska Dental Health Aide Therapist Bonnie Johnson is part of a new wave of front-line dental professionals who are dramatically improving the way dental care is delivered.

I am connected to the communities in which I serve.

I make tele-dentistry more viable.

Dental therapists are lower cost providers, so they can help make dental practices more efficient and cost effective. Studies show that dentists and dental practices who employ dental therapists can serve more patients while maintaining or improving their overall income. Studies show that dentists and dental practices who use dental therapists serve more patients while maintaining or improving their bottom line.

Even more, dental therapists can help dental practices stretch Medicaid payments further, allowing them to provide treatment for more patients with the same resources.

In Alaska, dental therapists have increased access to care for 45,000 people living in 80 rural communities.

About Us

Arizona Coalition

Dental Care for AZ is a group of organizations united in support of a proposal before the state Legislature that would authorize use of dental therapists in Arizona, eliminate unnecessary government regulation of the dental delivery system, and increase access to dental care for vulnerable populations.

It’s time to modernize Dental Care in Arizona. Sign up to stay informed.