case study

Striving to End the Oral Health Care Crisis

A dental therapist helping a kid brush their teeth.

The Challenge

Nearly 50 million Americans live in areas with too few dentists, and as a result, they can’t get needed dental care. Without more mid-level dental providers who can extend the reach of the dentist and deliver care to communities in need, ending the oral health care access crisis will be nearly impossible.

Our Approach

Burness used the voices of those most affected—rural residents, children and people of color—to elevate the oral health access crisis in national, local and social media. Whether a story of a family that had traveled hours for care, or a person who had to pull his own teeth because the pain was so awful, or even a dental therapist’s first-person account of providing care to children in remote Alaska villages, these voices are helping us change hearts and minds, and recruit champions to spur the change necessary to allow dental therapists to practice.

Our Results

Major media outlets such as the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Diane Rehm Show highlighted this issue to a national audience. The New York Times “Fixes” column flagged dental therapy as one of the top issues to watch in 2015. Three states have passed legislation authorizing dental therapists to practice, four have legislation pending, and at least eight others are exploring dental therapists as a way to expand access to dental care in their state. Native American tribes have also authorized resolutions advocating for dental therapists. How dental care is delivered is changing one state at a time.

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