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Dental workforce shortages and expanding access to care top CDA’s advocacy agenda in 2022

March 16, 2022 4369

Quick Summary:

CDA is pursuing both immediate and long-term solutions to dental workforce challenges through state budget funding and sponsored legislation, Assembly Bill 2276. CDA seeks to secure some of the governor's proposed health care workforce funds to develop programs to increase the dental care workforce through expansion of pipeline programs like CDA’s own Smile Crew CA, for example. CDA is also seeking $60 million in one-time investments to expand access to dental care for underserved, rural and vulnerable populations.

CDA’s legislative and budget advocacy agenda for 2022 is focused on two key areas: addressing dental workforce shortages that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and expanding access to dental care for vulnerable populations. 

CDA knows that California dental practices are having challenges recruiting staff, especially dental assistants, and that those challenges existed even before the pandemic’s onset. Over the last 10 years, for example, the number of first-year enrollments in dental assistant programs has declined by nearly 50%, according to the ADA Health Policy Institute’s 2021 Survey of Dental Assisting Education Programs.

Efforts to address these shortages through CDA’s Smile Crew CA dental assistant training programs are already underway. 

Addressing workforce issues that have ‘plagued California dental practices’ for years

CDA is pursuing both immediate and long-term solutions to dental workforce challenges through legislation as well as state budget funding.

AB 2276 by Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo (D-Boyle Heights) would expand the scope of practice for dental assistants by allowing them to perform coronal polishing and place sealants under direct supervision of a licensed dentist after completing their certification.

Currently, dental assistants can enroll in and complete courses to receive their certificates to perform these tasks through dental board-approved programs, but they cannot perform the tasks unless they have the registered dental assistant licensure.

If passed, CDA-sponsored AB 2276 will allow California dental assistants to perform these duties without having to complete a costly RDA program and exam. It also gives dental assistants greater opportunities to learn about the dental assisting career ladder.

“Expanding the scope of practice for dental assistants who have successfully obtained appropriate certification would help address dental assisting workforce issues that have plagued California dental practices for several years, even prior to the pandemic,” said CDA President Ariane Terlet, DDS. “This bill would protect patients by ensuring dental assistants are appropriately trained and supervised to perform new duties while balancing the needs of dental practices that are struggling to hire dental team members.”

At the state budget level, CDA seeks to secure some of the proposed health care workforce funds to develop programs to increase the dental care workforce, including through expansion of pipeline programs like CDA’s own Smile Crew CA.  

CDA strongly supports Gov. Gavin Newsom’s newly proposed workforce investments, which include significant funding for the High Road Training Partnerships, Health Care Workforce Advancement Fund, Multilingual Health Initiatives and the new Health Workforce and Education Training Council. CDA is advocating for these programs to include targeted investments focused on dental team pipeline development and apprenticeship programs.

$60M in one-time investments to expand access to care for underserved populations 

CDA is also advocating for two strategic one-time investments in the 2022-23 state budget to increase access to care for underserved, rural and vulnerable populations, as follows:

$50M to build new and expand existing dental clinics and outpatient surgery centers 

CDA is seeking a one-time allocation to fund grants for building a network of new specialty dental clinics or expanding existing clinics serving individuals with physical, developmental or cognitive disabilities. 

Currently, few sites can provide care for patients with special needs, and most are backlogged with long wait times exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many patients and their families are traveling hours to clinics to receive routine dental care.

Entities could apply for up to $5 million in grant funding and would need to agree to serve the special- needs population for a minimum of 10 years upon completion of the construction. The expansion of settings will significantly expand access to dental care for individuals who are unable to undergo dental procedures in traditional dental offices either due to special health care needs or the complexity of the care needed.

$10M to create a consortium of new CBCE rotations for dental students  

The community-based clinical education model prepares dental students to serve underserved populations by shifting a substantial portion of clinical education from dental school clinics to community sites.

CDA seeks $10 million in one-time funding to be administered by a nonprofit foundation and used to create new innovative CBCE rotations to bring dental students into designated underserved areas throughout California to provide care.

CDA and the CDA Foundation are already coordinating with the dental schools to expand existing CBCE programs, which can benefit communities by increasing access to care. The programs also improve the dental education experience by enhancing cultural awareness and exposing dental students to practice opportunities in rural and underserved areas. 

Watch for updates from CDA on these bills and budget actions as they move through the Legislature. Gov. Newsom has until June 15 to sign a final budget and until Sept. 30 to sign bills into law this session. 

Learn more about CDA’s major advocacy issues and priorities.