Dental clinic owners urge Senate to reject House bill that would require them to be licensed dentist
By The Star Staff
Owners of dental clinics objected this week to the approval of House Bill 1284, which would require that owners of dental clinics strictly be dentists.
The Pro-Dental Services Coalition said the legislation is a setback in the economic development of the island and limits services to the population, and urged the Senate to oppose it.
“This measure, promoted by a particular group of dentists, is the type of legislative decision that does not pay for the development of better health services, nor for the development of commercial activities and the creation of jobs,” said Exymaris Guerrero, spokesperson for the Coalition for Dental Health. “Worse yet, this measure promotes the closure of dental clinics on the island, which all operate with licensed doctors, which will cause less access to dental services in the pediatric and adult population.”
The coalition said the legislation will worsen the exodus of medical professionals such as pediatric dentists, orthodontists, periodontists, endodontists and prosthodontists.
“Our patients would be adversely affected by this measure, which is based on falsehoods and serves personal interests and political games instead of thinking about the health of the Puerto Rican people,” Guerrero said.
The bill, which is receiving expedited treatment in the island Senate, seeks to amend Act No. 75 of 1925 to add Section 15 to establish that the owner or majority shareholder of any dental clinic is a dentist licensed by the government of Puerto Rico.
Francisco Molina González, president of Clínica Dental de la Montaña in Naranjito and Toa Alta, said many recently graduated dentists would find it almost impossible to start a private practice since the investment in equipment and structure entails millions of dollars in expenses. Therefore, many dentists choose to serve their patients in established clinics with the equipment required to provide services.
Molina González said six dental surgeons, one orthodontist, and more than 15 duly licensed dental assistants work in his two clinics, but would be unemployed if the bill is approved.
In a letter sent to the Senate Health Committee, dentist Raúl Montilla Rivera said the changes to the law are “an error” with direct consequences for patients in dental clinics.
“I have been practicing dental medicine for more than 10 years in an office owned by a dental technician,” Montilla Rivera said. “We are certified dentists who see patients together with our technicians and dental assistants. We work with the utmost professionalism and follow the rules and ‘standard’ of care required of a dental professional in Puerto Rico. Therefore, generalizing the practice is not only incorrect but negligent. Saying that patients treated in dental clinics end up in emergency rooms constitutes a totally irresponsible generalization about professionals like us, who care so much about the well being of our patients.”
Guerrero, the coalition spokesperson, noted that there are administrative procedures under the Puerto Rico Dental Board of Examiners to guarantee the quality of the practice of the profession of dentists and dentistry on the island, as well as to regulate the practice of auxiliary dental hygienists and dental assistants.
Likewise, she asserted that “the exercise of a dental practice is a highly regulated matter like any other medical service and carrying out dental procedures without being a licensed dentist is already illegal.”
“This bill in no way addresses the illegal practice of dental medicine,” Guerrero said.