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AFP-Wisconsin Wants More Healthy Smiles!

Jan 30, 2018 by AFP

Grassroots Activists Push Lawmakers to Let Dental Therapists Practice in WI

MADISON, WI – Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin (AFP-WI) today applauded Representative Mary Felzkowski and Senator David Craig for introducing a bill to allow dental therapists to operate in Wisconsin at a time when the state is suffering from a dental service shortage. Dental therapists are like physician assistants and provide a level of service greater than licensed hygienists but below dentists. The Pew Charitable Trust has drawn national attention to the growing need for dental therapists in states like Wisconsin.


Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin State Director Eric Bott made the following statement.

“Our state faces a major problem with over 850,000 Wisconsinites living in areas with a reported shortage of dental services. This measure is a huge step forward in closing the tooth gap between Wisconsinites who have access to dental services and those who do not. Allowing dental therapists to practice in our state will mean more Wisconsinites will finally be able to get the care they need.”


Bott added:

“We applaud Rep. Felzkowski and Sen. Craig for introducing this bill that removes barriers and gets the government out of the way for Wisconsinites to access much-needed health care services. We urge the Assembly to support this common-sense bill to make Wisconsinites healthier and lower health care costs for everyone. We are urging representatives to pass this measure so there will be more healthy smiles in the state of Wisconsin.”



Sadly, access to affordable dental care, particularly in rural Wisconsin is a major problem.

  • In 2015, 70% of Medicaid children in Wisconsin (ages 1-20) received no dental care — one the worst rate(s) in the country.


  • In 2009, 75% of Medicaid/BadgerCare Plus (the state’s program for low-income residents) adult enrollees had received no dental care in the previous year.


  • In 2017, 855,643 Wisconsin residents were living in areas designated by the federal government as having a shortage of dentists; or about 15% of the state’s population.


  • 60 out of 72 counties in Wisconsin have at least one designated dental shortage area.


Dental therapists have been authorized to work across the country. Alaska authorized dental therapists to work in Alaska’s tribal communities starting in 2004. Minnesota was the first state legislation to authorize dental therapists in 2009.


Since Minnesota and Alaska allowed dental therapists to work, no malpractice claims have been filed.


Dental therapists can also help dentists lower costs and expand their practices by serving more patients. Dentists can delegate routine procedures to dental therapists, lowering costs. One study found a private practice dentist who hired a dental therapist saw a 27% increase in patient visits and an increase of 38% in new patients after the first year.