The DMD Check-Up: Dental Therapy Controversies; Taking a Bite out of Crime

February 17, 2017
Joe Hannan

Massachusetts and Kansas are considering legislation that would permit dental therapists to work in each state. This news comes on the heels of a similar debate in Arizona. On a lighter note, a robbery suspect in Minnesota left behind a key piece of evidence: a full impression of his teeth.

For a short month, February has been packed with many dental industry news stories. Controversy over dental therapists is now making national news headlines. A bungled robbery results in a key piece of dental evidence being left behind at the crime scene. A Georgia dentist is headed off to jail for Medicaid fraud. And Ireland is coming to terms with its own set of senior oral health issues.

The Rise of the Dental Therapist Role

The role of dental therapists has been garnering a lot of attention within the dental industry lately. Most recently, Dentist’s Money Digest reported on the battle over dental therapists in Arizona. The issue, however, is now gaining the attention of the national news media.

This week, the Associated Press published a story that appeared with the headline, “Would you let someone who’s not a dentist pull your teeth?” The report explains how the debate has now surfaced in

Massachusetts

, where there appears to be a shifting stance toward dental therapists within the state’s dental community.

Would you let a dental therapist, and not the dentist, fill your cavities? The proposal is out there. https://t.co/xaizuaHTpr

— FOX 17 (@FOX17) February 16, 2017

Christy Jo Fogarty, a dental therapist from Minnesota, explained her take on the issue this way: “We are not a silver bullet for helping access to dental care, but we are a great tool. … We have kids who don’t have to go to an emergency room for a toothache anymore.”

Kansas is considering similar legislation that would, supporters say, bring dental care to underserved areas.

Taking a Bite Out of Crime

Criminals leave fingerprints at crime scenes all the time. But full dental impressions?

Police: Men rob St. Paul gold grill business, but leave behind mold of teeth https://t.co/78ZkI3c8Xr pic.twitter.com/qcc3gK9Kex

— Pioneer Press (@PioneerPress) February 17, 2017

The Twin Cities Pioneer Press reports that a group of men are accused of robbing a Saint Paul store owner of cash. One of the men was being fitted for a grill, or a piece of gold jewelry worn over the teeth. The suspects neglected to take this key piece of evidence with them after leaving the crime scene. They also left behind contact information, as some of the other men had either been fitted for grills there, or were in the process of being fitted for them.

Dentist Headed to Jail

A Georgia dentist was sentenced to a year-and-a-half behind bars for defrauding the Medicaid program of nearly $1 million. The Atlanta Journal constitution reports that Oluwatoyin Solarin, D.D.S., filed false Medicaid claims. “The wealth she amassed through her scheme will now be forfeited and paid back to the government,” the AJC quotes U.S. Attorney John Horn as saying.

Breaking: Atlanta dentist Oluwatoyin Solarin sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for $1 million Medicaid false claims scheme. pic.twitter.com/KhD9fW9Btt

— AJC Investigations (@AJCInvestigate) February 15, 2017

Solarin’s practice biography says she was born in Nigeria, West Aferica, where she first received her dental education and practiced for three years. She received her D.D.S. at New York University.

Oral Health Abroad

Anne Twomey, B.D.S, MSc, vice president of the Irish Dental Association, says that for Irish senior citizens, transitioning to an assisted-living facility can mean the end of their teeth. A report from IrishHealth.com explains that even seniors with healthy teeth often lose them within three months. The report attributes this to “the unregulated use of fortified high-sugar food supplements in these homes, which is causing ‘untold damage’ to the teeth of many patients.”

Top dentist claims sugary foods and supplements bad for nursing home patients

RTvia @IrishDentists @AnneTwomeyhttps://t.co/0zhd5B6r7d

— CDO Scotland (@CDO_Scotland) February 8, 2017

The U.S. has its own difficulties to contend with when it comes to meeting the oral health needs of seniors. A report in the December issue of Health Affairs explored expanding dental coverage under Medicare and changing how care is delivered via the virtual dental home model.

A recent University of Buffalo study also found that seniors often skip dental care in assisted-living facilities, even when that care is provided at no cost.

Got a news tip? See something you’d like to have included in the DMD Check-Up? Email Dentist’s Money Digest managing editor Joe Hannan: jhannan@dmdtoday.com

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