Boston Globe editorial advocates for advanced dental hygiene practitioner bill

September 24, 2015

The state Legislature's Joint Committee on Public Health will consider a bill that would establish the position of advanced dental hygiene practitioner, or dental therapist. This Boston Globe editorial reports. Under the law, dental hygienists who complete an additional 12 to 18 months of education could provide basic dental services such as tooth extractions, fillings and temporary crowns in settings such as community centers, nursing homes and schools. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, which supports the dental therapist bill, 47% of children covered by MassHealth didn't see a dentist last year. Pew also reported that 59% of seniors living in Massachusetts nursing homes or other long-term care facilities in 2009 suffered from tooth decay. The Massachusetts Dental Society says therapists are not necessary and that it's working to sign up dentists to MassHealth. The group wants to get more people to have checkups and then adopt long-term schedules that emphasize preventive care. In a letter, it called for "education about the availability of benefits, language and transportation options, and an increase in understanding of the value of oral health."