The Massachusetts Dental Society deserves credit for acknowledging the persistent oral health access problem in Massachusetts (“Bay State dentists very much intent on reaching underserved patients,” Letters, Feb. 21). However, when compared with the proposal from state Senator Harriette Chandler and Representatives William “Smitty” Pignatelli and Kate Hogan, their proposal does not do enough.
While commendable, the dental society’s plan is insufficient to address the barriers facing many of our most vulnerable residents, including low-income children, seniors, veterans, and people with special needs. Legislation introduced by Chandler, Pignatelli, and Hogan draws on the success other states have had in reaching these vulnerable populations.
Similar to the association’s bill, the legislation we favor would create a new class of oral health providers, called dental therapists. But there are critical differences. First, the Chandler-Pignatelli-Hogan bill would allow dental therapists to deliver care in the community to people unable to travel easily to a dentist’s office, such as within schools or nursing homes. Second, dental therapists would be authorized to use teledentistry technology to maintain a close connection to the supervising dentist.
Third, this bill would ensure expanded access not just for people on MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program, but also the uninsured, seniors paying out of pocket, and others struggling to afford costly dental services. Finally, unlike the dental society’s legislation, the Chandler-Pignatelli-Hogan bill closely mirrors national accreditation standards for these providers.
Massachusetts needs dental therapists to make quality, affordable dental care accessible to everyone who needs it. Let’s make sure the solution is designed to do the most good for the most people.