Illinois’ most vulnerable children may have shinier smiles this holiday season. A measure lifting restrictions on dental hygienists performing routine dental procedures was sent to the governor last week.
House Bill 500, sponsored by Illinois Senator Bill Haine (D-Alton), is a comprehensive approach to provide better access to dental care for children under 12 who are eligible for Medicaid or live in a household that is below 200% poverty.
“A child with rotting teeth who is not eligible for Medicaid or treatment will feel the impact on her life, the way she views her life, and her ability to function as a student,” Haine said. “Healthy teeth are so important to anyone’s quality of life. This measure is a major expansion of access to preventative care – especially for at risk children.”
The legislation, a major initiative of the Illinois State Dental Society as well as the Illinois Public Health Association, would allow registered dental hygienists to place sealants on children’s teeth in school- based programs without the prior examination of a dentist. By allowing dental hygienists to perform this function in a school-based program, sealant programs are able to run more efficiently, thereby saving the state money. Additionally, this allows more children to have access to treatment in a shorter amount of time.
Tom Hughes, Executive Director of the of the Illinois Public Health Association added, “The Illinois Public Health Association believes this is an important step to improve access to oral health care for low income children and adults in Illinois, and we appreciate Senator Haine’s leadership in successfully managing this complex bill.”
The legislation has passed both the Senate and the House and, if signed into law by Gov. Bruce Rauner, will take effect Jan 1.