Oregon lawmakers authorize dental therapists, bill heads to governor

Oregon lawmakers sent a bill to Gov. Kate Brown June 23 that would allow dental therapists to work in the state under the supervision of dentists.

House Bill 2528, sponsored by Rep. Tawna Sanchez, D-North Portland, was passed with majority votes in the House and Senate after revisions were made to the bill following opposition from multiple dental organizations.

In March, the Oregon Dental Association, Oregon Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and Oregon Society of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons sent a letter to state lawmakers expressing concerns that the previous version of the bill would leave vulnerable populations in danger unless amendments were made regarding scope, training and supervision.

Lawmakers narrowed the scope of practice and expanded training opportunities for dental therapists. Under the bill, dental therapists would provide services to low-income and rural residents. Training would be approved by the Commission on Dental Accreditation and include basic services such as exams, fillings and simple extractions of teeth.

Dental therapists would have to spend a portion of their time working with underserved populations or in areas with shortages of health professionals and complete accredited programs before being granted licenses by the Oregon Board of Dentistry beginning in 2025.

Opposition to the bill still remains. The Oregon Dental Association took no stand on the bill, while two dentist members of the legislature said the reimbursement rates for dentists under the Oregon Health Plan need to be raised.

Eight states have authorized dental therapy: Minnesota, Maine, Vermont, Arizona, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada and Connecticut.

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