Government Operations Committee Passes Bill to Expand Access to Dental Care

This week the Government Operations Committee voted 4-1 to pass legislation to allow mid-level dental providers (called dental therapists) to expand the dental team in Vermont. The Committee took testimony a wide range of stakeholders including advocates, and oral health professionals from across the country.

Some of the most compelling testimony came on Tuesday afternoon when a pair of dentists, Dr. Joe Nieters D.D.S and Dr. Patrick Rowe D.D.S., asked the committee to pass S.20 in order to help improve access to dental care in Vermont. Dr. Rowe said that allowing these providers to practice in Vermont would allow him to better meet the oral health needs of his community by expanding his practice hours from three to five days a week. Using these providers would allow his practice to see more Medicaid patients because the cost of employing a dental therapist is much closer to the reimbursement that practice receives for treating Medicaid patients.

The Government Operations Committee reviewed the bill and adopted significant changes in order to find a middle ground between the bill as originally introduced, and changes that had been made by the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. The Committee approved a bill that would allow dental therapists to obtain a license to practice under the general supervision of a dentist once they have completed their education at an accredited facility, passed a licensure exam, and worked under the direct supervision of a dentist for 1000 hours.

The bill is supported by the Vermont Department of Health and a coalition of more than 40 organizations representing consumers, children, elders, and low income Vermonters. The bill will now go to the Senate Finance Committee before heading to the floor of the Senate for a vote. 

If you haven’t already, please take a short moment to reach out to your Senator and ask them to support this essential bill.

To read the bill click here (p.364)

To find out more about the issue of access to dental care in Vermont click here