Dental hygiene practitioner bill reported favorably out of Public Health Committee
On Monday, the bill to authorize dental hygiene practitioners was reported favorably out of the Joint Committee on Public Health. The bill (reported as a new draft, S. 2076), sponsored by Sen. Majority Leader Harriette Chandler and Rep. Smitty Pignatelli, establishes a new mid-level dental provider that would help increase access to needed dental care across the Commonwealth.
Known in some other states and countries as dental therapists, dental hygiene practitioners would be able to provide basic dental services, including fillings and simple tooth extractions, and help increase access to dental care for people who struggle to find dentists in their area and/or whom accept their insurance. Though MassHealth covers 40% of the state’s children, most dentists do not accept it, and a shocking proportion of children have untreated oral decay, affecting their ability to eat, learn, and play, and costing the state millions in expensive emergency room visits. Massachusetts also currently has 64 Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas (DHPSAs), with the problem only expected to get worse.
We need dental providers that can deliver care to those who need it the most. Dental hygiene practitioners could work in settings such as schools and nursing homes to make sure those who have a hard time accessing care can receive it. They may also work directly with dentists, allowing practices greater financial flexibility to see more MassHealth patients.
HCFA’s Executive Director Amy Whitcomb Slemmer recently published an Op-Ed in both Quincy's The Patriot Ledger and The Enterprise in Brockton discussing the importance of mid-level dental providers in improving access issues.
We are happy that our policymakers are pushing forward this bill and are excited to work with the Dental Care for Mass Coalition to support this legislation. The bill was referred to the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing, and we urge them to quickly report it out favorably.
-- Kelly Vitzthum