Mass. Dental Society backs independent hygienists

The Massachusetts Dental Society (MDS) is pushing a five-year plan to reform oral healthcare in its state, including legislation to let hygienists practice without supervision.

The state has provided nearly universal coverage with a new program called MassHealth that includes dental benefits. But reimbursement rates for dentists are approximately half of usual and customary rates, according to the MDS.

Currently about 29% of dentists in the state participate, according to the Telegram & Gazette newspaper.

Now the MDS is pushing several proposals to increase access to dental care:

  • Public health hygienists would operate in public clinics, schools, nursing homes, and similar locations without the supervision of dentists, if they get government certification. They could bill Medicaid or the state's MassHealth plan directly. The procedures they could conduct would be the same as under dentists' supervision in private practice, as determined by the state's Board of Registration in Dentistry (BORID).

  • Dental assistants, too, would get expanded roles to be defined by BORID.

  • Malpractice immunity would be provided for retired dentists who volunteer their services.

  • The state would get a full-time dental director in the office of Medicaid to oversee the MassHealth dental programs.

  • The MassHealth reimbursements for dentists would increase with a goal of increasing dentists' participation to 65%.

  • Public dental health clinics, which provide dental care on a sliding scale, would get increased funding.

  • Tuition reimbursement and loan repayment programs for dental students would increase.

  • Dental schools would enhance programs focusing on community service.

  • The society will advocate for and investigate legislation to increase community water fluoridation.

  • Mouthguards would be required for contact sports.

  • Antismokeless tobacco initiatives would be funded.

  • Soda, fruit juices, sports drinks, and other sugary snacks would be banned from school vending machines.

  • Children entering school for the first time would be required to show evidence of a dental exam.

Copyright © 2009

Page 1 of 206
Next Page