May 10, 2019

Senator Abrams Leads Senate Passage Of Bill Creating Practice Of Dental Therapy

HARTFORD, CT – State Senator Mary Daugherty Abrams (D-Meriden, Middlefield, Rockfall, Middletown, Cheshire) led this week’s passage of legislation through the State Senate establishing the new practice of Dental Therapy in Connecticut. Sen. Abrams played a key role in the legislation’s formation as Senate Chair of the Public Health Committee.

Senate Bill No. 807, “An Act Concerning the Legislative Commissioners’ Recommendations for Revisions to the Public Health Statutes,” among other modifications, would allow trained Dental Therapists to perform a variety of educational, preventative, and therapeutic services under the supervision of dentists in public health settings such as group homes, child care centers, and nursing homes. Dental Therapists would be a vital part of improving access to dental health care for underserved populations such as veterans, seniors, children, and the disabled, who otherwise would not have access to care. The Health Resources and Services Administration reported that all eight Connecticut counties have areas with a shortage of dental health professionals. In 2017, a Department of Public Health report indicated that the rates of untreated dental decay have risen in recent years.

“The new category of dental therapy represents a huge step forward in treating dental health needs in the state,” said Sen. Abrams. “Many people endure discomfort and pain rather than address their dental problems due to lack of access. It is important that we address these problems with oral health in the state, particularly because oral health correlates to overall health. By expanding oral health care providers particularly dedicated to the underserved in public health settings we can expand access to dental care and improve the health of communities across the state. I was happy to have helped guide this legislation through the Senate today.”

Dental therapy programs have found success in other states. According to the American Dental Hygiene Association, Minnesota implemented this practice in 2011. Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Maine and Vermont have additionally passed dental therapy legislation.