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Federal Trade Commission staff, in comments to the Maine Board of Dental Examiners, stated that dental hygienist rules proposed by the Board, designed to implement a pilot project to test expanded access to dental care in underserved areas of Maine, contain restrictions that could undermine the project's purpose and deny consumers the benefits of competition among providers of dental health services.

The FTC staff comment states that the proposed rules "could have the unfortunate effect of harming the members of the public by limiting their choices, limiting access to oral health care, and impeding price competition."

In June 2011, Maine passed legislation directing the Board to implement a two-year pilot project that expands the scope of practice of Independent Practice Dental Hygienists (IPDHs) to allow them to take X-rays in underserved areas without the presence of a dentist, as long as they meet certain education and experience requirements. The Board's proposed rules to implement the pilot project would, however, restrict IPDHs to independently taking only bitewing and periapical X-rays, and would prohibit them from taking other types of X-rays.

The FTC staff comment recommends that the Board not impose the proposed restrictions, expressing concern that, if adopted, they "would impede the development of new arrangements for delivering oral health care services in ways contrary to the very intent of the pilot project." The letter observes that the proposed rules provide no statement of the Board's basis for its proposed restrictions; nor do they cite any evidence of safety concerns if IPDHs are allowed to independently process other types of X-rays.

The Commission vote approving the staff comment was 4-0. It was sent to Teneale E. Johnson, Executive Secretary, Maine Board of Dental Examiners, on November 16, 2011. A copy of the letter can be found on the FTC=s website and as a link to this press release. (FTC File No. V120000; the staff contact is Christopher M. Grengs, Office of Policy Planning, 202-326-2612.)

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(Maine Dental)

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