On June 2, Governor Peter Shumlin of Vermont signed S. 20 into law, which establishes and regulates the dental therapist category of oral health practitioners in the state. Individuals can be licensed as dental therapists by examination or endorsement.
To be licensed by examination, an applicant currently must be a licensed dental hygienist in Vermont who has graduated from a dental therapist educational program administered by an institution accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation to train dental therapists.
Or, applicants must have passed a comprehensive, competency-based clinical examination approved by the Board of Dental Examiners and administered independently of an institution providing dental therapist education to be licensed by examination.
Dental therapists can provide prevention, evaluation, and assessment; education; palliative therapy; and restoration under the general supervision of a dentist within the parameters of a collaborative agreement. Section 613 of S. 20 lists all of the procedures allowed under the dental therapist’s scope of practice.
Before entering a collaborative agreement, dental therapists must complete 1,000 hours of direct patient care using dental therapy procedures under the direct supervision of a dentist. Also, they must receive a certificate of completion signed by the supervising dentist.
To practice, dental therapists must enter into a written collaborative agreement with a dentist licensed and practicing in Vermont. Dentists may not enter into collaborative agreements with more than 2 dental therapists. Section 614 of S. 20 reviews the specifications of a collaborative agreement.
Dental therapists may supervise dental assistants and dental hygienists directly to the extent permitted in the collaborative agreement. They may supervise no more than a total of 2 assistants or hygienists or any combination of them at any single practice setting, though.
Supervising dentists must refer patients to another dentist or specialist to provide any needed services that are beyond the scope of practice of the dental therapist and that the dentist is unable to provide. And in accordance with the collaborative agreement, dental therapists must refer patients to another qualified dental or healthcare professional to receive any needed services that exceed the scope of their practice.
In consultation with the Board of Dental Examiners, the Department of Health will report on the geographic distribution of practicing licensed dental therapists, the geographic areas underserved by licensed dental therapists, and recommended strategies to promote the practice of licensed dental therapists in underserved areas. This report will be submitted 2 years after the graduation of the first class of dental therapists from a Vermont accredited program.