James Madison Institute released a new policy brief, “Dental Therapists: Sinking Our Teeth into Innovative Workforce Reform,” which found that Florida lags 16 percent behind the national average in dentists per 100,000 residents. In addition, roughly one in four Floridians – about 5.5 million people – live in areas of the state where there are documented shortages of dentists. To combat the problem, the report suggests, state licensing regulations should be reformed to let the market determine the number and types of Florida’s dental care providers, including the relatively new innovation of dental therapists.
Florida is home to several special populations who often have unique oral health needs. Individuals 65 years and older make up one-fifth of the Florida population and usually have a greater need for dental care. In addition, 30 of the state’s 67 counties are designated rural areas in which only 2.4 percent of Florida’s general dentists practice.
Over the next 10 to 20 years, Florida’s population will continue to explode. Florida policymakers will face serious and substantive decisions regarding access and delivery of healthcare services. Dental care should be among the top priorities.
JMI’s policy brief is available here.