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'Filling our schedules': Clinic CEO hopes new dental workers will help with appointment backlog

Posted at 8:44 PM, Mar 18, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-18 21:44:03-04

GREEN BAY (NBC 26) — The CEO of a Green Bay dental clinic hopes the addition of a new class of workers could help reduce their appointment backlog.

  • Wait times for a dental appointment in northeast Wisconsin can last months
  • A new state law allows for the licensing of a new type of dental worker, known as a dental therapist
  • Watch the video to learn what a dental therapist could do for patients

A lot goes into a smile, something a Green Bay dental hygienist knows personally.
"I couldn't close my mouth basically [when I was little]," said Marie Luce, a hygienist at N.E.W. Community Clinic.

But going to the dentist "made me more positive about who I was," and helped her condition, Luce said.

She now wants to pay it forward and help others with their teeth, but getting an appointment to see her or anyone else at the clinic can take patience.

"It's hard, there is a high demand for dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants... here in our community and across the state," said Kim Franzen, CEO of N.E.W. Community Clinic.

The clinic focuses on serving patients who are uninsured or do not have enough insurance, have Medicaid, or meet income requirements.

Franzen hopes the addition of dental therapists to Wisconsin's dental workforce might help ease their backlog of appointments, which currently stands at three months.

A dental therapist is someone in-between the level of hygienist and dentist, and "...will have a place to be able to assist doing fillings, doing x-rays," Franzen said.

Gov. Tony Evers signed a bill earlier this year allowing dental therapists to be licensed.

Luce, the dental hygienist, has a message for anyone who has not been to the dentist in some time but would like to make an appointment.

"You will at some point be proud to smile and show [your] teeth, and I want people to be proud and happy to smile."