Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed House Bill 2220 into law on May 6, enabling dentists to prescribe and administer vaccines. Minnesota and Illinois also allow dentists to administer vaccines, but only to protect against the flu and only in adult patients.
The law will allow dentists to vaccinate patients of all ages against multiple illnesses, including the flu and the human papillomavirus. But dentists will have to wait, probably until early 2020, for the Oregon Board of Dentistry to approve rules and procedures for administration.
“If you have a routine dental cleaning in the fall, just as the flu season typically starts, you can also get vaccinated at the same time,” said Phillip Marucha, PhD, DMD, dean of the Oregon Health & Science University School of Dentistry, which partnered with the Oregon Dental Association (ODA) to draft the bill.
“This simple convenience can help bridge gaps in care and prevent the spread of infectious disease. We’re offering Oregonians another option that can make it easier to stay healthy,” said Marucha.
“Oregon dentists are always looking for ways to improve our patients’ health and well-being,” said ODA president James McMahan, DMD. “We sponsored HB 2220 to increase access to care, providing additional opportunities for patients to receive life-saving vaccines from highly trained practitioners they already know and trust.”
OHSU is working with the Oregon Board of Dentistry, Oregon Board of Pharmacy, Oregon Health Authority, and ODA to determine how dentists should be trained before they provide vaccinations. As the state’s only dental school, the School of Dentistry will likely provide hands-on vaccination training to both practicing dentists and dental students.
The law helps further integrate oral and medical care, Marucha said, adding that dentists are well equipped to provide vaccinations because they routinely provide injections in a challenging location—the mouth—and have extensive training and experience in anatomy, microbiology, and autoimmune response. Marucha also is interested in how the new law will enable dentists to help fight HPV, which is a leading cause of oral cancer.