Today’s Boston Globe features a piece on the 31 licensed public health dental hygienists in the Commonwealth. Longtime readers of this blog know that oral health is inextricable for overall health. They also know that despite a large body of evidence pointing to a multitude of costly and complex health issues related to poor oral health, access to dental care remains an issue.
Chapter 530 of the Acts of 2008 was the result of a successful collaboration between Health Care For All, the Oral Health Advocacy Taskforce, the Massachusetts Dental Hygienists Association, and the Massachusetts Dental Society, along with the leadership of the Legislative Oral Health Caucus chaired by Representative Scibak and Senator Chandler.
A key component of Chapter 530 established a new role in the dental delivery system: the public health dental hygienist. The bill expanded access to dental care by allowing dental hygienists – in collaborative agreements with dentists – to provide care in health centers, schools, nursing homes, and other public health settings. Preventive services are the real foundation of good oral health and have long-term cost savings benefits for the Commonwealth. Hygienists have long been a bulwark of prevention, and Chapter 530 solidified their role.
According to today’s article, the US Health Resources and Services Administration estimated that in 2012 nearly 350,000 individuals in the Commonwealth were underserved when it came to dental care. The Globe spoke with Dr. Brent Martin, MassHealth dental director,
“In the last state fiscal year, the hygienists served about 6,900 children. While that’s a help, he said, there’s plenty of room for the program to grow. “
The article also highlights the great work of longtime Oral Health Advocacy Taskforce members Dr. Mark Doherty and Kathy Eklund.
Health Care For All looks forward to the continued growth of the public health dental hygienist program as time goes on. Common sense solutions like this, paired with restoring MassHealth adult dental benefits, will go a long way in protecting the overall health of Massachusetts.