State News

Legislation to improve access to dental care passes senate floor

S.20, a bill that allows dental therapists to practice in Vermont, passed the Senate floor on an 18-8 vote April 3. This legislation, sponsored by Sen. Claire Ayer (D- Addison), Sen. Michael Sirotkin (D-Chittenden), and Sen. Jeanette White (D-Windham), will increase access to affordable, quality dental care for all Vermonters.

Sponsor and Chair of the Government Operations Committee, Senator Jeanette White, made a compelling case for why dental therapists will help to increase access to dental care. White cited the quality of care they provide around the world and in the United States, our aging dental workforce, success of a similar program in Minnesota, and hearing from dentists who want to utilize the new provider.

Dental therapists will work within a narrowly defined scope of practice to provide important and needed routine and preventive care to underserved Vermonters. They will be trained at Vermont Technical College, which has more than a decade of experience providing high quality training for dental hygienists in Vermont.

Senate Majority Leader, Phillip Baruth (D-Chittenden), stood up on the Senate floor to express his support by stating that over the past three years this is the “only viable path anybody has offered” to the dental access crisis. He also stated that he trusts Vermont Technical College to train the dental therapists, as they do many other professions.

Senate Minority Leader, Joe Benning (R-Caledonia), stated that after listening to intensive testimony in the Government Operations Committee he chose to support the bill because it would create jobs and improve access to dental care.

In addition to the votes on the Senate floor today, the bill has received support from the Shumlin Administration and a diverse statewide coalition, including children’s advocates, uninsured clinics, dental providers, advocates for seniors, the past two state dental directors, and over 1,000 petition signers statewide.

The bill is now headed to the House, where it will be reviewed by the relevant committees before going to the floor for a vote.

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