Oral Health Care for All coalition calls for expanded dental workforce

VPIRG joined a broad coalition of lawmakers and organizations at the State House today to promote public health, celebrate Oral Health Week and voice their support for legislation (S.20) that would expand Vermont’s dental workforce.

S.20 would let licensed dental hygienists receive advanced training and become certified as “dental therapists.” These dental therapists could provide routine restorative and preventative care such as fillings and simple extractions. Advocates and lawmakers argued that dental therapists are a tool to improve access to dental care and bolster economic opportunities across Vermont.

Michelle Fay, associate director at Voices for Vermont’s Children, discussed the need to increase access to dental care in Vermont saying,

Every year, tens of thousands of Vermonters are not accessing needed dental care. Going without dental care can mean suffering in pain, missing work and school, not being able to eat well, and living with the effects of poor oral health. Dental therapists will be able to bring dental care to communities that need it; in settings like schools, community centers, WIC Clinics, and nursing homes.”

“Dental therapists are a proven solution to increase access to care,” said VPIRG Consumer and Environmental Advocate Falko Schilling. “S.20 presents us with an incredible opportunity to make it easier for Vermonters to get the care they need, and to create high quality jobs in our communities. The experience of people in Minnesota, Alaska and more than 50 countries around the world has shown us that this is the right solution for Vermont to address our dental access issues.”

Ellen Grimes is the Dental Hygiene Program director at the Vermont Technical College Department of Dental Hygiene and a registered dental hygienist. She said she knows “first-hand” that dental needs in the Vermont community are not being met.
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I have been a dental hygienist for 37 years and a dental hygiene educator for 35 years, and I am convinced that dental therapists will fill a void in our current dental system, and reduce the need for more invasive and expensive treatment,” Grimes said. “I have been contacted by many practicing dental hygienists who are ready and eager to continue their education to become dental therapists not only for their own professional satisfaction, but to increase their ability to best serve their patients.”

Jim Gold, DDS supports passage of S.20 and in a recent op-ed stated “The bottom line is that dental therapists will be quality providers and this is supported by exhaustive literature, decades of experiences, and the rigorous training and licensure requirements included in the proposed legislation. Dental therapists will be good for the State and are worthy of support from the Vermont State Legislature.”

S.20 passed through the Senate in 2015 and is currently being reviewed by the House Human Services Committee. Please visit our Dental Action page to learn more about how you can make a difference!