Concord (N.H.) Monitor: Proposal to Expand Hygienists' Role Met With Opposition From Dental Society
One year after New Hampshire lawmakers passed a bill expanding the role of some dental hygienists, another bill proposes further reform of the state’s oral health system.
It’s a proposal some say could improve access to dental care before problems become crises. The New Hampshire Dental Society, however, says the proposal is wrongly focused on restorative work when what is needed is more education and coordination.
The bill, which has had one hearing before the Senate Health, Education and Human Services Committee, would create the position of licensed dental therapist, a dental provider between a hygienist and a dentist.
Children’s dental care is covered by Medicaid, but according to a 2011 report from the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Center for the States, only 54 percent of enrolled children regularly received dental care.
"The problem is some combination of not having a dentist available, or if there is, only about half of dentists in the state accept Medicaid," said Erika Argersinger, public policy director for the Children’s Alliance of New Hampshire. "If they do (accept Medicaid), they might have a long waiting list, or the closest dentist that accepts Medicaid might be far away."
The problem of access may only get worse with time: In a 2010 study by the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, 4 out of 10 New Hampshire dentists were at or near retirement age.
“This is not the only thing we need to do to address that, but this is one way to get the services to kids where they are. We see a real access problem, and see this as part of the solution,” she said.
Read the full story at concordmonitor.com.