Bill To Expand Role Of Dental Hygienists Voted Down

Jan 30, 2014

Senator Peggy Gilmour (D-Hollis) on the Senate floor.
Credit Todd Bookman / NHPR

State Senators voted down an effort Thursday to expand the role of some dental hygienists, instead opting to study the issue.

With additional training, advocates say new dental hygiene practitioners could expand access to oral health care, especially in rural and low-income communities. Under the supervision of a dentist, these mid-level professionals would be able to pull baby teeth and fill cavities.

Dentists, however, were dead set against it.

"SB 193, which proposed a dental hygiene practitioner, was untimely and unnecessary," writes New Hampshire Dental Society President Dr. Puneet Kochhar in a statement. "This debate, spearheaded by a national foundation, has created division among oral health stakeholders and partners who have worked together for years to improve the state’s oral health. New Hampshire, in most national benchmarks, leads the nation in terms of oral health care for both children and adults."

Lead sponsor Peggy Gilmour, a Democrat from Hollis, compared the resistance to how doctors once feared nurse practitioners.

“We have seen that be a successful model of expansion of work force in the health care realm. We must find ways to move our health care system forward.”

So far, only Alaska and Minnesota have approved similar measures. Maine, Vermont and 10 other states are also debating the issue.