State House Rally for Dental Hygiene Practioners
On Wednesday, HCFA was excited to join with over 60 others gathered in Nurses Hall at the State House to advocate for the creation of a mid-level dental provider in Massachusetts, the Dental Hygiene Practitioner (DHP). The event was attended by people representing those with disabilities, seniors, immigrants, and dental providers.
A provision to authorize DHPs is before the House-Senate conference committee debating the final state budget for fiscal year 2017.
Endorsed by twenty-seven organizations across the state, DHPs are dental hygienists who – after completing additional training – are able to deliver basic but critically necessary care to underserved populations. Services include filling cavities, placing temporary crowns, and extracting loose teeth. DHPs will work under the general supervision of a dentist, using telehealth technology to share X-rays and patient records with the dentist and consult on complicated cases. This will allow DHPs to bring care directly to people in schools, nursing homes, and other community settings.
The bill’s sponsors Senator Harriette Chandler and Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli both spoke passionately about the importance of passing this bill to Massachusetts residents. Both legislators represent areas of the state that experience a disproportionate burden of dental disease and face significant challenges in dental care access.
Maura Sullivan, government relations director at the ARC and mom to two children with autism, spoke of the difficulty she’s had accessing dental care for her kids. Finding a provider who is trained to treat a patient with autism is difficult – but Amendment EHS # 479 includes a requirement that DHP are trained in strategies to treat patients with developmental disabilities.
HCFA’s Oral Health Manger, Helen Hendrickson, stressed the strong and diverse support for this bill by a broad and diverse set of groups who see the need for better dental care for all.
For more information, check out this post by HCFA Oral Health Policy Analyst Kelly Vitzthum, on the Harvard Petrie-Flom Center's blog, Bill of Health, and read the letter delivered to the legislative leadership by 30 organizations supporting this bill following the rally.
- Kelly Vitzthum