BANGOR, Maine (NEWS CENTER)-- A proposal that would create a new position in the field of dentistry here may be taken up in the Maine House this week. The bill would create a new level of hygienists called dental hygiene therapists. These positions would require additional training and would allow the hygienists to perform some of the procedures dentists do. The measure has created a sharp divide in the state's dental community.
President of the Board of Dental Examiners Jeffrey Fister said, "Personally, I question whether somebody would rather see a trained dentist or would they rather see someone with relatively limited experience."
Fister has worked in the dental field for decades, he worries the bill, if passed, would force dentists to move their practice out of state and keep new ones from coming to Maine.
Supporters argue the proposal would provide affordable dental care to those who cannot afford it or who don't have access to a dentist.
Fister, however, disagrees. According to the longtime oral surgeon, access is not an issue especially in the Bangor area. The Penobscot Community Health Clinic, where he teaches, offers affordable dental care, but he said very few take advantage of it.
"Why are we not utilizing that sort of avenue as opposed to trying to create something new and quite frankly not knowing where it's going to go," said Fister.
Another concern for Fister, the patient's care.
"My biggest concern is the patients are not going to be treated fairly. they are not going to realize the difference between those that are fully educated and those that are minimally educated," said Fister.
Many dental hygienists support the proposal. If passed they would be required to have an additional 500 hours of training. Once completed they could perform things like simple extractions.