After more than five years of debate, the legislature passed a measure on Friday that allows dental therapists to practice in Vermont!
Dental therapists are mid-level dental providers with a scope of practice greater than a hygienist, but more limited than a dentist. Dental therapists will be licensed hygienists who can also perform some of the most needed dental procedures such as fillings and simple extractions.
“What the legislature did today will make a big difference in the lives of thousands of Vermonters,” said VPIRG Consumer and Environmental Advocate Falko Schilling on Friday. “In a few years we expect to see reduced travel and wait times for Vermonters as well as more people on programs like Dr. Dynasaur and Medicaid being able to find care when they need it.”
Dental therapists are part of the dental team in more than 50 countries around the world and are already working in Alaska and Minnesota.[i] The Vermont Oral Health Care for All coalition, made up of more than 40 advocacy and public health organizations, is a major supporter of bringing the dental therapy model to the state. Over the past five years, the coalition has worked to bring citizens, dental professionals, accrediting administrators, and practicing dental therapists to the State House to discuss with legislators and administration officials why and how dental therapy should be brought to Vermont.
Despite a proven safety record,[ii] and established national education standards,[iii] the dental therapist model is strongly opposed by organized dentistry; in the past two years alone, the Vermont State Dental Society has spent over $200,000 in reportable lobbying expenses trying to stop the dental therapist model and other proposals in the State House.[iv] In the face of this powerful opposition, the success of the Vermont Oral Health Care for All coalition – and the countless Vermonters who spoke out and contributed to the grassroots pressure – is an inspiring example of how we can make a difference!
Governor Shumlin is expected to sign S.20 when the bill reaches his desk in the next couple weeks, making Vermont one of the first three states to allow dental therapists to provide care to patients.
[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] Nash at 6
[iv] https://lobbying.sec.state.vt.us/Public/SearchFiledReports# (Search Vermont State Dental Society)