L.D. 1230 is sponsored by Speaker of the House Mark Eves (D-ME), and co-sponsored by 42 members of the state legislature, including Rep. Heather W. Sirocki (R-ME), a dental hygienist by training.
If the bill becomes law as amended, it would create a license for a dental hygiene therapist, requiring completion of 1,000 hours of clinical practice under the supervision of a dentist and successful passage of a clinical examination approved by the Board of Dental Examiners. According to the bill, a licensed dental hygienist or independent practice dental hygienist may practice as a licensed dental hygiene therapist to the extent permitted by the additional educational requirements outlined in the bill.
Under the bill, a dental hygiene therapist would be able to be reimbursed under the MaineCare program (the state’s Medicaid program). Additionally, according to the amended bill text, a dental hygiene therapist may practice only under the supervision of a dentist who is licensed in Maine and through a written practice agreement signed by both parties.
As you may recall, the bill was originally introduced in 2013, passed the full House on June 19, 2013, but failed to pass out of the full Senate. The bill was then carried over for any future special or regular session. On January 28, 2014, the bill passed the full House as amended by a vote of 102-39, and passed the full Senate on February 6. However, both chambers must formally enact the bill, prior to it being sent to the governor for approval. As a result, the measure faces additional votes in both the House and Senate.
According to Speaker Eves, the state faces a dental shortage in 15 of its 16 counties, with 55% of Maine children lacking dental access. Within the next five years, 23% of dentists in Maine plan to retire, and an additional 16.1% expect to reduce their hours. 40% of Maine’s practicing dentists are approaching retirement.