Dentists’ perspectives on dental therapy
Focus groups that were conducted with dentists uncovered the following responses as they considered two main questions.
Why did you choose to hire a dental therapist?
- When asked why they chose to hire a dental therapist, one dentist said he had known the individual's quality of work and would have hired her had she decided to go into dentistry or to dental therapy. (She was working at the time as a dental assistant.)
- Another dentist said she hired a therapist in October 2012 who had been working for her, and then they decided to start a non-profit clinic so the therapist can split her time a few days a week between the private practice and the non-profit clinic.
- “For me in a private practice, it allowed me to increase access to care. It opened the doors to people that we were unable to serve before.”
- “I was running in circles doing restorative and referring things out that I wanted to do. I just physically didn’t have the time to do it. Now I'm doing more endo & oral surgery that I want to do and I want to keep in the practice.”
What did you do to integrate the new type of dental health care practitioner into your practice?
- Needed to better plan ahead for the need for more space to accommodate this new staff member.
- Needed to figure out how to pay the therapist; how to get an NPI number.
- It was very important for us to set up patient age ranges and behavior issues. In other words, we didn’t want the dental therapists’ patients to have teeth so badly decayed that they would have to be opened up. We wanted the dental therapists to treat the "middle of the road patients" that they would be most likely to be able to handle when just starting out in clinical practice.
- There was never a negative issue when we hired a dental therapist, either with the patients or the other staff. Everyone needed to understand how they would work as a team.
Experience with a therapist in the practice
- “I was surprised and kind of worried about presenting them to the patients or having to defend it. It’s been seamless. If the staff is on board than the patients are too.”
- “I think they became DTs because they wanted to serve and they express that in their work. My patients just adore our DT because she projects that and she cares.”
- “Malpractice is available and it’s not expensive. (Having a DT) allows you more time to do advanced procedures, which makes you more productive, more profitable.”