This legislative session, Maine became the third state that will have mid-level dental practitioners. Like nurse practitioners and physician assistants on a medical team, mid-levels allow dentists to extend their own reach and serve many more residents who currently need-but have been going without-dental care.
The Maine bill passed with strong bipartisan support and was recently signed by Gov. Paul LePage (R). It authorizes dental hygiene therapists to practice under the supervision of dentists, performing both preventive and routine restorative dental care, such as filling cavities.
"Maine faces an oral health care crisis," said one of the bill's principal sponsors, Speaker of the House Mark Eves (D), in a press release. "Dental hygiene therapists will play a critical role in addressing this crisis by ensuring our kids and seniors get the dental care they need."
The Institute of Medicine found that one-third of the U.S. population lacks access to dental care. To address the problem, Minnesota authorized dental therapists in 2009 to work in underserved areas and Alaska has deployed them on tribal lands since 2005. Another 15 states are considering similar legislation.
A recent Pew study found that hiring dental therapists can be a good business decision for dentists, most of whom own or work in private settings. For more information on mid-level dental providers in Maine, Alaska and Minnesota and similar efforts in other states contact Elizabeth DiLauro or visit our webpage.