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Delaware Senate Democrats

McBride Bill to Bolster State-Supported Dental Clinics Passes Delaware Senate

March 24, 2021

DOVER – The Delaware State Senate on Thursday passed legislation authorizing the Division of Public Health (DPH) to grant provisional licenses to dentists-in-training who are working – or plan to work – at state-supported dental clinics.

Senate Bill 73, sponsored by Sen. Sarah McBride, would add a category to existing provisional licensing opportunities specifically focused on boosting access to dental services at public health clinics. The new licensing opportunity is expected to help the Division of Public Health more easily recruit dentists to the First State and address long-standing shortages of dental health professionals in many communities.

“For far too long, dental health services have been viewed as a luxury available only in our larger towns and wealthy communities,” said Sen. Sarah McBride, D-Wilmington. “Dental care is health care, and these services are critical to upholding a basic standard of care in our state. This bill gives our public health system a powerful tool to address shortages and reach more patients in need. I’m proud to sponsor this legislation and thank my colleagues for their support in passing it today.”

Delaware has long lagged behind other states in access to dental services.

In the 2018 Annual Report of America’s Health Rankings, Delaware was ranked 47th in the country for dental access. By 2020, the same publication ranked Delaware 50th in the country. In 2012, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) reported that 30.1% of Delaware’s population lives in Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA) as compared to 15.4% nationally.

“As a small state, Delaware has to continually look for ways to compete for qualified professionals, including dentists. Much as we have done with teachers, improving recruitment and retention means providing opportunities for new dentists,” said Rep. David Bentz, the lead House sponsor. “With more patients seeking dental care, it’s critical we take these steps forward now to increase services to those in need. SB 73 will close that service gap and improve dental services to residents. I’m looking forward to passing this bill in the House.”

Legislation sponsored by Sen. Bryan Townsend and signed by Governor John Carney included dental services in Medicaid coverage starting in October 2020, increasing the statewide pool of dental patients and those seeking dental care at public clinics.

In response, DPH has worked to recruit dentists, especially in clinics that serve low-income communities and other shortage areas. SB 73, first introduced as SB 81 in the 150th General Assembly, is designed to support those efforts and make Delaware a more attractive place for dentists to start a career.