Press Release: Senate Proposal Seeks to Expand Access to Dental Care in Florida
SB 604, filed by Sen. Jeff Brandes, Establishes Dental Therapy in Florida and Enables Licensed, Trained Professionals to Provide Care through Mobile Units
Tallahassee, FL – Floridians for Dental Access, a coalition of supporters for dental therapy, praised legislation filed in the Senate this week by Sen. Jeff Brandes to bring dental therapy to Florida.
“Now is the time to bring dental therapy to Florida,” said Tami Miller, executive director of Florida Dental Hygienists' Association and a member of Floridians for Dental Access. “One in four Floridians don’t have access to a dentist, and this measure will increase access to dental care and bring down overall costs for Florida families.”
SB 604, Dental Therapy, establishes licensure for dental therapy in Florida. Dental therapists are formally educated to perform simple procedures, such as providing preventive care, filling a cavity and educating patients on proper techniques to maintain good oral health. Similar to the relationship between a physician’s assistant and doctor, dental therapists provide care under the supervision of a dentist.
Dental therapists can care for patients in community settings, such as schools, early head start programs, senior centers and rural community clinics, as well as private practice locations that meet certain requirements. Dental therapists have provided care safely in other states across the nation for more than 15 years.
SB 604 also authorizes Medicaid to reimburse for dental services provided in a mobile dental unit. With a severe shortage of dentists to meet the needs of Florida families, this measure will enable providers to bring services where they’re needed most.
“When individuals don’t have access to dental care, consequences are far-reaching,” said Miller. “Minor problems can grow to complications that require more complex and costly procedures. Furthermore, poor dental health can negatively impact education, job performance and overall health.”
Poor dental health is at the root of more serious and more costly health conditions. Patients with serious dental conditions are 25% more likely to suffer from heart disease and challenges with diabetes.
Children and seniors often suffer the greatest complications as a result of Florida’s severe shortage of dentists. One in five children across Florida suffers from treatable dental problems. More than 23% of third graders in Florida have untreated tooth decay, making Florida 6th in the nation for the highest percent of third-grade children with unfilled cavities. More than one-third of senior citizens (65+) have lost six teeth due to tooth decay or gum disease. Fourteen percent of senior citizens have had all their teeth extracted.
To read SB 604, visit https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2021/604. There is no immediate fiscal impact tied to the legislation.