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Dental Deserts


Misty Mattingly, Charlie Craig, and Sarah Smith explain GA HB 684

Dental Deserts

In the state of Georgia, 118 counties out of 159 have too few dentists to treat those residents.  16 Georgia counties have NO DENTIST at all.  Clearly, this leaves a large, rural population in the state with limited or NO access to even basic, preventive dental care.

Today, there are only 5 states that do not allow hygienists to operate under a dentist’s supervision unless the dentist is physically on site where the dental hygiene care is provided.  One of those is Georgia.

President of Georgia’s Dental Hygienist Association, Misty Mattingly, stopped by, along with Sarah Smith and Charlie Craig of Solution Road to talk about a measure before the Georgia House of Representatives that will address the lack of access to preventive screenings and treatments that are provided by hygienists.

Currently, Georgia law requires that a dentist is ON SITE while a hygienist administers care.  Obviously, this is impossible in 16 counties without some sort of medical mission on the part of dentist and hygienist, and limited in 118 Georgia counties.  Under HB 684, hygienists would be able to be supervised remotely by a dentist rather than requiring them to physically be on site.  This would empower hygienists to provide diagnostic screening and preventive care in these areas with limited to no access.

When problems requiring restoration such as a filling or crown would be identified by the hygienist during these visits, they would be referred to a dentist for appropriate care.  Without question this is a win for all parties, particularly the patients who today, have problems often going undiagnosed until serious, often resulting in an ER visit for evaluation.