Missouri Dental Association Promotes Its Agenda
Two op-eds, attributed to different members of the Missouri Dental Association (MDA), appeared in the Columbia Missourian and the Examiner in response to my op-ed about dental therapists (which appeared in both the Columbia Missourian and the Examiner). Although these responses were textually the same, they have different credited authors: In the Missourian, the op-ed is attributed to Dr. Rob Coyle, DDS, and in the Examiner, the authors are Matt Niewald, DDS, president of the MDA, and Scott Roberson, DDS, trustee of the MDA. One can only wonder why the same piece is attributed to different authors, but a reasonable conclusion may be that the MDA asked its members to submit a pre-written op-ed to these newspapers. The MDA’s purpose is not secret, given that the last line of both pieces reads:
We would encourage others, both inside and outside of the profession, to contact your legislators and ask them to support the MDA agenda. Working together, we are confident we can bring common sense solutions that will improve the oral and overall health of our state.
The MDA suggests other factors, like Medicaid reimbursements, that may be contributing to the problem of providing access to dental care for Missourians. These are valid points, but they do not provide an adequate reason for their offhand dismissal of the value of dental therapists. The MDA implies that dental therapists “would compromise the safety” of patients. I’ve addressed the issue of the quality of dental therapists in the comment section of previous posts, and within the op-ed itself. The studies of dental therapists, from New Zealand, Australia, the UK, and Alaska, have so far shown that they provide quality in patient outcomes that is comparable to that of professional dentists, and studies show that altering licensure rules to allow dental therapists to practice could improve access to care for children in the United States.
This opposition by the dental lobby despite the lack of evidence to support their position, evidenced in op-eds like these from the MDA, or in legislation to prevent teeth-whitening in kiosks, is an attempt to keep market share by using government power rather than by providing a better service at a better price. Artificially protecting a profession from competition — especially high-quality competition — does not help keep patients safer. Arbitrary rules that prevent qualified mid-level professionals from entering the market only hurt the people they are purporting to help: the patients.