As Dr. Jonathan Shenkin noted in his column (May 8) about dental care, a March report by the Pew Charitable Trusts included an error.

Unfortunately, we relied on data that was mislabeled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and we will post a corrected report soon. Shenkin, however, overlooks key points about Maine’s dental health challenges.

Maine is one of about a dozen states exploring whether to license a new type of provider — a dental hygienist with extra training — to expand access to dental care, prevent and treat tooth decay and improve public health.

In the United States, millions of low-income children receive no dental care. Pew’s report studied how New Zealand’s school-based system staffed by dental therapists contributes to far better access for New Zealand’s children. We found that a similar system could expand access to care here — a finding that stands despite the error in the original report. Further, our report also cited a review of more than 1,100 studies which showed that dental therapists across the globe offer quality care.

Maine legislators are considering whether to license such therapists. The model is similar to one in place in Minnesota, where dentists and clinic operators have found these practitioners can improve access to care.

It’s troubling that low-income children in Maine were less likely to receive dental care in 2011 than their peers in any other New England state. Facing a severe dentist shortage, Dental Access for Maine, a coalition of more than 30 local stakeholders, is urging the Legislature to expand access to dental care. Pew proudly supports their efforts.

Maine’s access barriers are serious, and many factors are shaping this problem. Dental Access for Maine is properly focused on solutions that will make a significant difference.

Shelly Gehshan, director

Pew children’s dental campaign

Washington, D.C.

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