NH nixes expanding role of dental hygienists

A proposal to expand the role of dental hygienists in New Hampshire was shelved after lawmakers voted instead to study the issue.

The state Senate instead voted January 30 to create a commission to study oral health, according to a story on therepublic.com.

The bill by state Sen. Peggy Gilmour (D-Hollis) would have created a new type of dental provider called a dental hygiene practitioner. They would be allowed to read x-rays, drill and place temporary fillings, and remove teeth in specific circumstances, under the direct and indirect supervision of a dentist.

The measure was supported by 24 advocacy groups, but the New Hampshire Dental Society opposed it.

The idea was similar to nurse practitioners, and the study is a step toward improving access and lowering costs, Gilmour said.

The state's access-to-care problem is fueled by a dentist shortage. A 2010 report by the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies noted that 4 out of 10 dentists were at or near retirement age.

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