May 16, 2017

Voters concerned about mid-level dental practitioners

Courtesy of Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center
Dr. Brian Genna, head of the dental division at Worcester-based Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center, works with a young patient.

Opponents of a bill allowing mid-level dental practitioners to perform procedures like drilling and extractions without direct supervision from a dentist say a new poll shows voters are also concerned about the legislation.

The Massachusetts Dental Society commissioned a MassINC Polling Group survey and released the results on Monday. The poll of 754 registered voters found that 73 percent of respondents did not feel comfortable with the activity permitted under the legislation.

"The results confirm what dentists in Massachusetts have heard directly from patients — future mid-level dental professionals must be directly supervised when performing irreversible procedures," Dr. David Lustbader, president-elect of the dental society, said in a statement. "There is a substantial volume of Massachusetts residents with complex oral health care needs. To effectively treat these patients, it is essential that mid-level dental practitioners have the highest possible level of education, training and supervision."

Dental Care for Massachusetts, a coalition that includes Pew Charitable Trusts, Health Care for All and Mass Senior Action Council, supports legislation sponsored by Sen. Harriette Chandler of Worcester. The coalition has said Chandler's proposal addresses the need for an increase in providers of "cost-effective dental care" outside traditional tentist offices to address the burden of dental disease that they said is disporportionately carried by low-income residents, racial and ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, seniors in long-term care, and those living in rural areas and inner cities.

The society supports legislation establishing a new mid-level dental professional called public health dental practitioners and requiring such individuals to hold a bachelor's degree and two years of training after graduation, and to be directly supervised when performing irreversible procedures.

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