Oral Health Care For All Coalition Calls For Licensed Dental Practitoners

Today VPIRG and allies from the Vermont Oral Health Care for All Coalition gathered at the State House to voice support  for legislation that would expand Vermont’s dental workforce.  S.20 and H.1 would allow Licensed Dental Practitioners to provide dental services in the state of Vermont and address dental access issues faced by Vermont.

Click here to read the official press release. 

Senator Michael Sirotkin commented on the bills saying “I have represented Vermont seniors on Medicare and Medicaid for 3 decades in the State House. The dentists have continuously and consistently said they could not afford to take new Medicaid patients at the rate Vermont pays. S. 20 seems to be an elegant and Vermont-specific solution to the access problem our seniors face for the primary and preventative dental care so essential to their good health. In time I think the dental community will appreciate this change, just like doctors have come to find nurse practitioners and physician assistants invaluable to their work and patients.”

Licensed Dental Practitioners are a tool to improve access to dental care and bolster economic opportunities in communities across Vermont- a state where, according to the American Dental Association, has the highest rate of dentists nearing retirement age at 49%.

“Dental Practitioners are an innovative tool to improve access to dental care that just makes sense for Vermont,” said VPIRG Consumer Protection Advocate Falko Schilling. “These providers already offer first class care around the world, and they are a needed solution to expand our state’s ageing dental workforce”

For many Vermonters, the lack of accessible Dental care is an everyday obstacle that impacts their overall health. Speakers urged the legislature to address this issue as soon as possible.

Dental Hygienist Sam Petrone also spoke in favor of adding the new provider to Vermont’s workforce. “Dental Practitioners will improve access to affordable, quality oral health care that is becoming unavailable to Vermonters due to an aging population of dentists and because of limitations that are currently placed on the traditional, licensed dental hygienist.  The current delivery of oral health care is not working. This is an ongoing crisis within VT and nationally since before the time I became a hygienist almost 20 years ago. We cannot wait any longer to implement this provider.”

Often lack of access to quality care can harm Vermonters who are struggling to get health care coverage.

“As the Executive Director of a clinic for the uninsured and underinsured, access to oral health is the single largest problem facing our patients,” said Peter Youngbaer the Executive Director of the People’s Health and wellness clinic in Barre.“For those with Medicaid, it’s virtually impossible to find a dentist willing to take a patient. This is the large gap in capacity of our current Vermont oral health system and workforce.  Adding Licensed Dental Practitioners to the oral health team would be the single largest step Vermont could take to providing access to quality oral health care for all Vermonters.”

S.20 is currently being reviewed by the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, and H.1 is being reviewed by the House Committee on Government Operations. The Senate Health and Welfare Committee will be taking testimony on the bill Thursday February 4th. Help us show lawmakers that now’s the time to pass this essential legislation by signing our petition.