Maine is in dire need of mid-level dental therapists. The No. 1 reason for emergency room use (ages 15-44) among MaineCare and the uninsured is dental pain. Some 80 percent of Maine dentists do not see new MaineCare (Medicaid ) patients. Those are the reasons LD 933 and LD 1230 are in front of Maine’s Senators and Representatives.

Because of the lack of dentists, there is a huge need. Seniors and children are being neglected. Unemployed, educated, state-licensed registered hygienists, with support of dentists and a few years of continued education could service the under-served areas of this rural state.

This model, with demonstrated high-quality care, has improved the oral care in other countries and states. Alaska and Minnesota have tried this with appropriately trained oral health care providers, including dentists, dental therapists and hygienists. Maine can, too.

Dental therapy, along with other changes in oral health care habits, would cut costs to patients with current assessments before problems get out of hand — preventing emergency treatment. Families will become educated about preventive care. Patients with special dental care issues, who have been educated to understand the need for extended care before health issues arise, would be referred to dentists for their care.

Everyone wins. More Maine residents could receive oral health care while delivering preventive services to younger patients, providing healthier long-term care at a lower cost.

Debra (DJ) Jenness, Freeport


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