AUSTIN – A new poll released today by the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Health Care Policy shows voters strongly support dental workforce reform in Texas through the creation of licensed dental hygiene practitioners (DHPs). These midlevel providers would be trained to work under the supervision of a dentist to provide restorative and routine dental services like filling cavities, extracting teeth, and administering local anesthesia.
The poll, conducted by Baselice & Associates, Inc. for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, found that the vast majority (89%) of likely Texas voters want DHPs to be authorized to provide care in Texas. A majority of likely voters also agreed that using midlevel dental providers like DHPs will reduce taxpayer spending on dental-related emergency rooms visits, create jobs, and alleviate access to care problems throughout the state.

“Support for dental workforce reform spans the political spectrum and includes stalwart supporters of both major parties, including liberal Democratic voters in Texas cities and conservative Republican voters in rural areas,” said John Davidson, Director of the Center for Health Care Policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. “This policy reform is bipartisan and common-sense, and it’s heartening that so many Texas voters recognize that.”
This session the Texas Legislature is considering a bill that would create licensed DHPs, including education requirements and a regulatory regime. DHPs, working under under the supervision of a dentist, would be able to provide services in schools, nursing homes, adult day-care facilities, Head Start centers, and the like, increasing access to care among underserved populations.

“Upon learning how they would function and what they would do, a large majority of Texas voters support (89%) allowing dental hygiene practitioners to practice in Texas,” said President & CEO of Baselice & Associates, Inc. Michael Baselice. “Support for allowing dental hygiene practitioners to practice in Texas is 90% among both Republican and Democratic voters, and 87% among Independent voters.” 

“The results of the poll show that Texas voters understand the with the importance of dental access in our state and embrace common-sense reforms such as using dental hygiene practitioners to expand access,” said Davidson. “By allowing dentists to hire trained and licensed dental hygiene practitioners, Texas lawmakers can bring dental care to more Texans without spending taxpayer dollars. Voters understand this is a free-market, Texas-style policy solution to a persistent health care problem in our state, and they embrace it.”
The poll was conducted by Baselice from April 6-12, 2015. The study has a sample size of 949 likely voters, with a margin of error of ±3.2%. Significant findings from the survey, include:
  • 60% of voters in Texas strongly support reforms that would allow dental hygiene practitioners in Texas to provide preventive, restorative and routine dental services.
  • 35% of voters said they or a family member put off dental care in the last 12 months because of difficulty affording a dentist.
  • An overwhelming majority of voters (89%) agree that dental hygiene practitioners should be allowed to practice in Texas (7% disagree).
  • Strong support for DHPs was bipartisan (58% Republican, 60% Democratic) and overall support was expressed by 90% of voters in either party.
  • Among rural voters, 64% of solid Republican voters and 66% of solid Democratic voters expressed strong support for DHPs.
  • Overall, 91% of solid Democratic voters in urban-suburban areas and 92% of solid Republican voters in rural areas expressed support for DHPs.
Full survey results:
John Davidson is the Director of the Center for Health Care Policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. 

The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a non-profit, free-market research institute based in Austin, Texas.

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