Access to oral health care received a boost recently, after the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) voted to set national standards and accreditation processes of dental therapy education programs.
As VPIRG and the Vermont Oral Health Care For All Coalition gear up to bring S.20- a bill that allows dental therapists to practice in Vermont– to the House, this move helps set the stage for growth in the dental therapy field both nationally and on a state level.
CODA, a subset of the American Dental Association, is the sole national accreditation agency of dental-related education programs. Their decision to establish standards was made in recognition of the need to expand dental care to underserved areas and the untapped benefits of the dental therapy profession, which serves as part of the dental team to provide basic oral care and preventative services.
As a rural state with a dwindling dentist population, many Vermonters are left without necessary oral care because of issues of affordability and local access. Often children end up being those impacted the hardest; according to a 2011 Pew study, 40 percent of kids covered through Dr. Dynasaur did not receive any kind of dental care.
With training partners already established at Vermont Technical College, Vermont is perfectly positioned to implement dental therapy as a low-cost, effective approach to expanding dental care to rural and low-income communities, controlling costs, and creating local job opportunities. The implementation of CODA’s new standards will help to guide policymakers in states that are considering dental therapy, such as Vermont.