Yesterday the Senate Government Operations Committee Voted 4-1 to pass S.35, a bill that would allow mid-level dental providers, called dental practitioners, to practice in Vermont. Dental practitioners have a higher level of training than a hygienist, but not the same level of training as dentists. S.35 would allow dental practitioners to do all the procedures performed by a hygienist, as well as filling cavities and performing simple extractions. These providers operate in 54 countries as well as Alaska and Minnesota and have been shown to offer high quality care in their scope of practice while increasing access to care.[i] Licensing dental practitioners in Vermont is one tool that we can use to address our aging dental workforce, and make it easier for Vermonters to get necessary care.
Evidence shows that the addition of mid-level dental practitioners can help improve access to dental care. An example of increased access can be seen in the experience of Minnesota where mid-level dental providers began entering the workforce in 2011. Though the training requirements for these providers differ from what is proposed in S.35, their impact on the workforce can be informative of the possible benefits the state would see from passing S.35. In the 2014 report “Early Impacts of Dental Therapists in Minnesota” the Minnesota Department of Health found that dental therapists have improved access in a number of areas. Clinics that employ dental therapists are seeing more new patients, have increased dental team productivity, decreased travel and wait times, and have seen lower appointment fail rates.[ii]
The Committee spent considerable time examining the bill and hearing from experts across the country. In the end the Committee decided to move the bill forward with only minor changes. The bill next moves to the Senate Finance Committee for a quick stop before heading to the Senate floor. The bill will then have to go through the House of Representatives before hitting the Governor’s desk. S.35 is one of many similar bills working their way through state legislatures across the country. Check out vpirg.org for the latest updates, and contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions you might have.
[i] Nash, David A. et al “A review of the Global Literature on Dental Therapists: In the Context of the Movement to Add Dental Therapists to the Oral Health Workforce in the United States” April 2012, at 2. Available at http://www.wkkf.org/news/Articles/2012/04/~/media/97A0E38A926443BF81491C09DCA6A7EA.ASHX
[ii] Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota Board of Dentistry “Early Impacts of Dental Therapists in Minnesota” Report to the Minnesota Legislature 2014, February 2014. Available at http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/orhpc/workforce/dt/dtlegisrpt.pdf