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Massachusetts tries to fill gap in dental care
Updated: 6/30/2009 9:00:25 PM

Massachusetts tries to fill gap in dental care Pending legislation in Massachusetts would allow dental hygienists to provide dental care to patients in public health settings without the direct supervision of a dentist, according to the Boston Globe.

Supporters say it is a way to provide for the dental health of the poor and those without dental insurance while critics such as the Massachusetts Dental Association say the hygienists are unqualified to treat patients outside of the traditional practice.

The state just recently underwent a contentious budget debate where 700,000 poor enrollees in the state healthcare plan almost lost their dental insurance. In the end, their dental coverage was preserved.

Supporters of the hygienist bill say that it is a much-needed corrective since 69 of the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts do not have a dentist and 30 percent of those that do, do not have enough to provide dental care for all who live there.

Laws allowing dental hygienists to perform dental checkups and provide care have been passed in 22 states, including Maine. Other states are trying different approaches, such as the mobile clinics in Louisiana, to provide for the dental health of those without dental insurance or easy access to a dentist.

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