Senate Bill 20, which will authorize the practice of dental therapy, was signed into law by Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin on June 20.
Vermont joins Maine and Minnesota as the third state allowing dentists to hire dental therapists. This comes after a campaign by the Vermont Oral Health Care for All Coalition lasting five years. In addition, dental therapists care for Native American tribes in Alaska, Oregon and Washington while working with dentists.
"Dental therapy is such a powerful antidote to our state's dental care crisis because it puts providers in communities where people struggle to get the care they need,” Rep. Kiah Morris said in a recent op-ed for the Bennington Banner. “Once they graduate, dental therapists will be able to practice in a range of settings, such as community health centers, school-based health clinics, private practices, nursing homes and mobile dental vans."
Residents of Vermont, like millions nationwide, can only access oral health care on a limited basis. In 2011 and 2012, approximately 100,000 people across the state were without health care. Of the children that were covered under the state’s Medicaid program, 38 percent did not receive dental health services.