Leo’s Letter: Sometimes It’s Just Simple

Why is The Arc so strongly behind S. 1169, a bill that would allow dental therapists to operate quasi-independently in our Commonwealth? The reasons are simple:
  • Because of the lack of dentists who serve adults with disabilities (intellectual, developmental, autism, etc.); we hear stories about long delays in dental care which result in emergency room visits and extractions.
  • Because even fewer dentists are available for those on MassHealth – imagine the impact not only on our constituents but on all families who rely on MassHealth dental coverage for their children and themselves.
  • Because prevention and ongoing monitoring are neglected.
  • Because it’s so bad that the state has a contract with Tufts Dental Clinic (thank you, Tufts!) to address the needs of thousands of our constituents. We may always need that additional support, but it will never be adequate to meet the needs of all our constituents, who should have local options regardless.

Maura Sullivan testifying.

This is a national problem –  see this 2016 NPR story. Maura Sullivan, Director of Government Affairs, has been working with the Pew Foundation, Senator Harriette Chandler, and others to pass S. 1169. This bill would develop a new category of dental therapists who would be quasi-independent under general supervision. The bill also requires their training to include working with our constituents. The Arc moved that clause forward.

 The Dental Society has opposed the bill because it only requires general supervision by dentists. But their opposition makes no sense, since the problem is insufficient availability of dentists in the first place. We need the dental therapists to be able to independently work on hygiene, prevention, and some dental interventions. They will be required to refer to dentists for other matters. We will get a better handle on the gaps through this network as well. Sometimes the solutions are just simple – read Maura’s testimony here.
Leo V. Sarkissian
Executive Director

One Comment:

  1. Maura’ s story is all too familiar to me. I am a dental hygienist and my daughter was born with down syndrome and other neurological issues. Working in her mouth was always a Trumatic experience. I took her at a very young age to a pediatric dentist with the highest credentials hoping that it would be the best situation for her. Unfortunately that was not the case. He believed that if we continue to hold her down she would eventually get used to it. After several visits we realized that was not the case. We’ve been trying to deal with her adversion to any kind of dental therapy ever since. If there’s anything that I can do to promote better dental health for our population you can contact me.

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