SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

March 14, 2013

Letter: Hygienists meet unmet need

To the editor:

The Feb. 28 letter to the editor (“Concerns raised over school dental care offering”) underscores the lack of understanding of the unmet need for preventive dental services. Dental disease is nearly 100 percent preventable, yet more than 40 percent of children in our schools have experienced a cavity.

The public health hygienists are acting within the bounds of the Omnibus Oral Health Law of 2009, allowing dental hygienists to deliver preventive care to patients in a public health setting. This law was enacted with the broad-based support of the Massachusetts Dental Society, the Massachusetts Dental Hygienists’ Association and the Oral Health Advocacy Taskforce.

The dentists write that they are “concerned not just about the oral health of the students of Salem,” but “Who is going to treat the referrals?”

Public health hygienists are required to refer patients they have seen back to the dentist of record or to a dentist who accepts MassHealth. However, only five of the 13 named accept MassHealth, and yet they are attempting to block other professionals from providing preventive care to all students, insured or uninsured.

We applaud the Salem school system and the decision to make dental disease a thing of the past. We thank the Massachusetts Dental Society for their support and those who worked hard to create this law. Public health hygienists are another option for preventive services, not unlike the tiers of nurses we find in the community, all of us serving as prevention specialists for our communities and patients.

Nancy Mann, RDH, BS, M.Ed

President

Massachusetts Dental Hygienists Association

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