A recent article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel discusses a new law passed in Wisconsin that allows dental hygienists to work independently, without the direct supervision of a dentist. Hygienists in Wisconsin were previously restricted from working on their own outside of a few limited scenarios. Supporters of the law cheered its passage and claimed that it will broaden access to preventive oral care in the Badger state.
Before Governor Walker signed the bill into law, dentists were required to examine each patient before hygienists could treat—a system that created unnecessary roadblocks and delayed care while inflating costs, according to critics.
Now that the law is in effect, one dental organization—Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers—plans to hire dental hygienists as quickly as possible in order to provide preventive care to children covered by Medicaid.
Medicaid patients often struggle to gain access to care, as many dentists don’t accept the public insurance due to low reimbursement rates. Now that hygienists can work without a dentist present and at a lower cost, many in the state are hopeful that more Medicaid patients will receive much-needed dental care.
The change in Wisconsin comes at a time when other states are considering similar moves. We wrote earlier about how Maine and Vermont already allow dental therapists to perform procedures that were once the exclusive domain of dentists. We’ll continue to follow these developments across the nation.