Proposed legislation affects dentists and hygienists

CARSON CITY, Nev. (KOLO) Nevada's proposed Senate Bill 366 would allow dental hygienists to pursue more training and education to become dental therapists, permitting them to perform procedures that, as the law is now, only dentists can do.

"It's just a little bit less education," Caryn Solie, a local dental hygienist, says. "So they're not getting the full education of implants and other surgical procedures so they're very safe."

Solie has been a hygienist since 1971. She says the goal of this legislation is to provide more access to patients in rural areas of the state.

"We have a great number of our counties and parts of our state where they are not able to reach access to oral healthcare, they have to commute to get oral care and there's a lot of people that have Medicare in our state so this really started out as a lack of access to care," she says.

David White of the Nevada Dental Association says this isn't about access to care but about patient safety.

"We are trained at the highest standard to ensure that patient safety, so we go ahead and say, do the citizens of Nevada deserve anything less and not to mention the poorest of the poor-- do our poor children deserve anything less than folks that can pay with normal insurance?" White says.

If SB 366 passes, it will require the person to first be a dental hygienist and then get three years of additional schooling to qualify to perform these procedures. This would total seven years of schooling, one fewer than a dentist.

But those already pursuing a career in dentistry, such as UNR student Jordan Reynolds, say the bill could make the field unequal.

"Someone who is not currently putting in the same effort as I am now, I think that them being able to do procedures similar to me in the future could be problematic," Reynolds says.

Local dentist Nicholas Anastassatos agrees with Reynolds. He recognizes the rigorous training and education it takes to become a dentist.

"By the time we're out of school we've done roughly 50-100 procedures before we're out and working on private patients," he says.

There will be a work session for SB 366 at the Nevada State Legislature Wednesday, April 10.