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Dental Hygiene Regulation and Access to Care

By specializing in preventative oral healthcare, dental hygienists (DHs) have the potential to improve oral health in the United States. DHs decrease the cost and increase the availability of oral healthcare beyond what would be provided by dentists alone. Yet laws and regulations in many U.S. states prevent DHs from fulfilling their potential. A prior study by Wing et al. (2005) found that states that impose more restrictions on the functions DHs are permitted to perform resulted in lower DH wages and poorer oral health outcomes. This study adds entry restrictions, including educational and licensure requirements, to the analysis by developing a model in which a state’s entry and practice restrictions jointly affect the DH labor market and access to care. After evaluating anecdotal evidence from four case studies, we estimate the effect of variations in entry and practice restrictions across the U.S. using a three stage least squares (3SLS) estimation method. The results are consistent with the hypotheses that entry restrictions reduce employment rates, practice restrictions reduce productivity and wage rates, and wage and employment rates are endogenous to each other and jointly influence access to care. The implication for states seeking to improve oral health is that both entry and practice laws and regulations must be considered jointly in order to significantly improve access to care.

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Paper provided by Center for Economic and Policy Studies in its series Working Papers with number 2009-02.

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Length: 16 pages
Date of creation: 29 Jan 2009
Date of revision: 23 Jul 2009
Handle: RePEc:vac:wpaper:wp09-02
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