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New poll indicates concern with allowing unsupervised midlevel practitioners to perform irreversible dental procedures

May 15, 2017
In one poll, 70% of registered Massachusetts voters said mid-level practitioners should be supervised by a dentist during procedures such as drilling or extracting teeth.

In one poll, seventy percent of respondents said midlevel practitioners should be supervised by a dentist during procedures such as drilling or extracting teeth.

According to a poll commissioned by the Massachusetts Dental Society (MDS), 73% of registered Massachusetts voters do not feel comfortable allowing midlevel dental practitioners to perform irreversible procedures such as drilling and extraction of teeth without direct supervision from a dentist. The poll, which surveyed 754 individuals and was conducted by the MassInc Polling Group, comes as the Massachusetts legislature considers two proposals for licensing a new class of midlevel dental practitioners in the state. The bills differ significantly in terms of training, credentialing, and supervision for practitioners.

“The results confirm what dentists in Massachusetts have heard directly from patients—future midlevel dental professionals must be directly supervised when performing irreversible procedures,” said David Lustbader, DMD, president-elect of the MDS. “There is a substantial volume of Massachusetts residents with complex oral health care needs. To effectively treat these patients, it is essential that midlevel dental practitioners have the highest possible level of education, training, and supervision.”

The poll also found that 72% of respondents support credentialing standards for mid-level dental professionals that mirror licensure requirements set forth for physicians assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs). In January, the MDS filed legislation on Beacon Hill that provides a comprehensive approach to oral health care issues facing the Commonwealth. The bill focuses on care for underserved populations and resources to address socio-economic barriers that impact dental care for low income Massachusetts residents.

The MDS legislation advocates for the establishment of a new midlevel dental professional called “Public Health Dental Practitioners.” In keeping with licensure standards for PAs and NPs, the bill would also require these new professionals to obtain a bachelor’s degree and two years of training after graduation, and to be directly supervised when performing irreversible procedures.

A different bill filed separately from the MDS legislation would allow midlevel professionals to be licensed with a two-year associate’s degree and one year of training after graduation. That bill also would allow midlevel professionals to perform irreversible procedures with phone supervision by a dentist located as far as 200 miles away.

Source: Massachusetts Dental Society press release 15 Monday 2017

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