In January, Gov. Tony Evers signed five bipartisan oral health related bills to improve dental access and bolster the Wisconsin oral health workforce.

Thanks to the advocacy efforts of many partners such as the Wisconsin Oral Health Coalition and the Wisconsin Primary Health Care Association, Senate Bill (SB) 689 became 2023 Wisconsin Act 87, authorizing the licensure of dental therapists. Dental therapists are highly trained oral health practitioners that work with dental teams similar to the way a Physicians’ assistant works with a medical team. Through the off-site supervision by a dentist, dental therapists can increase access to care by delivering services in settings that better meet the needs of communities that are underserved such as in remote clinics, schools and senior residential care facilities.  Along with providing education and preventative services, dental therapists are able to perform common dental procedures such as filling cavities and, in limited cases, removing teeth.

The following pieces of legislation were also part of the dental package:

  • 2023 WI Act 88 : Ratification of the dentist and dental hygienist Compact
  • 2023 WI Act 89: $20M in funding for technical college oral health care programs
  • 2023 WI Act 90: Scholarships for Marquette University School of Dentistry students who practice in dental health shortage areas
  • 2023 WI Act 91: Assign reimbursement for dental services to a specific dental provider

Public signing ceremony
On Jan. 31, Gov. Tony Evers led a public signing ceremony at Northcentral Technical College. You can view the official press release from the Office of the Governor here.

Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin (the Alliance) wants to also thank Wisconsin State Sen. Mary Felzkowski for her dedication and persistence to improving oral health through these pieces of legislation. Following the signing, Sen. Felzkowski stated, “I think it’s easier today than it has ever been to look out at the path before you, muddled with obstacles and naysayers and cynics, throw up your hands in defeat, and turn away from a challenge. But good things aren’t meant to come easily, and if you really believe in what’s at the end of that road, you can’t give yourself the option to give up. The pen I hold in my hand today, used to sign my bill into law, is proof that it’s worth it. And several years from now, when Wisconsin graduates its first dental therapist, I know that in a way, it’ll feel like it’s my own child graduating.”The picture will be plugged in here.

The Wisconsin Oral Health Coalition looks forward to leveraging and promoting the new opportunities created through the dental package, such as adding dental therapist to the dental team, which only became a reality through persistence and collaborative advocacy efforts.

If you would like to learn more about dental therapy and the Dentist and Dental Hygienist Compact, please see the following resources:

Written by:
Jenna Linden, BSDH, RDH, CDHC
Program Leader, Oral Health

Lindsay Deinhammer, BSN, RN
Program Manager, Environmental Health and Oral Health