I am writing to voice my opposition to LD 1230, legislation that creates a new type of dental practitioner — the dental therapist —  in Maine.

As an educator for over 15 years I support programs that prepare students for good jobs and good careers in Maine, but LD 1230 is not based on sound education practice. It asks Maine lawmakers to approve training and credentialing that hasn’t even been defined yet. The Maine Legislature wants to adopt a new level of licensure without even seeing what kind of training will make these professionals qualified.

In 2009, the state of Minnesota initiated similar efforts to improve access to quality dental care. While the program’s outcomes won’t be fully measured until 2014, already it’s having difficulty meeting its objectives. Of the 25 people who have completed the program at the University of Minnesota, over a third remain unemployed and only one serves a rural region. The barriers to dental care have not been eliminated.

In 2010, Maine voters approved the $5 million dental care bond. Spurred by that bond, the accredited UNE dental school is prepared to open this fall. Students are entering the field of dental care, and taking on debt, with the expectation of entering Maine’s job market.

If LD 1230 passes, we’re undermining the investment we’ve made in our educational system and the investment Maine students have made in their futures.

LD 1230 is bad policy, and hopefully legislators will vote it down.

Larry Ronco, Farmington

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