A bill pending in the Maine Legislature — LD 123 — would allow dental hygienists to drill and fill cavities/and give anesthesia as well as prescribing pharmaceuticals.

This piece of legislation proposes an unspecified training program that amounts to a simple probation period of time. This potential practice would require only one annual review by a dentist.

This proposal makes me very nervous. I trust my dentist implicitly. He has been taking care of me and my family for years without incident.

The truth is, however, that filling a cavity can be tricky. It’s a small space and very close to blood vessels and nerves.

Most of my career has been spent in the medical field and care giving. I have witnessed what can happen during a normal surgical procedure, as well as crisis on an ordinary day.

Sometimes things go wrong. We need the right people in the room if they do. The proposed amount of training — just 500 hours — equal to about 12.5 weeks is not enough to prepare someone for this kind of urgent situation. I hope the Legislature says no to this bad idea.

Solutions to offer similar secondary levels of care have been in the works around the nation. Most of the patients for these practices, I believe, have been Medicaid recipients. This is not acceptable.

Maine people already voted on a solution, approving a dental school in Biddeford. For the first time in Maine, 62 candidates are beginning their four-year program; more than a third already enrolled are Maine residents.

Dental therapy hygienists should strive to become dentists, if that’s what they want to do. All of Maine will benefit.

Mary Baird Leighton


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