Mullins introduces legislation to expand much-needed access to dental care

Bipartisan measure would extend license portability to dental professionals to address workforce shortages & increasing demand for dental services

HARRISBURG, Aug. 29 – Today, Rep. Kyle Mullins, D-Lackawanna, introduced legislation that would give dentists and dental hygienists who meet certain requirements more flexibility to move to Pennsylvania and provide critical dental services. The measure comes at a time when the Commonwealth is facing shortages in the dental workforce, which is making it increasingly difficult for residents to access the dental care they need in a timely fashion.

House Bill 1586 would ease the regulatory burden currently facing out-of-state dental professionals seeking to practice in Pennsylvania. If enacted, Pennsylvania would become a party to the Dentist and Dental Hygienist Compact, a program that enables licensed dentists and hygienists who come from participating states to practice in Pennsylvania without having to go through the same cumbersome licensure procedure. While the system would be streamlined, safeguards would remain in place as dental practitioners would still be required to complete an application process, have no disciplinary action against them, be in good standing with their current licensing board, and undergo background checks.

“There’s a growing body of evidence showing that poor oral health is tied to several serious health conditions, which is why I’m concerned that many Pennsylvanians are going without the dental care they desperately need,” Mullins said. “In many parts of the state, there simply are not enough dentists and dental hygienists to meet the demand for services. If passed, this bill would be an important step forward in addressing our dental workforce shortages.”

According to the most recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly one-third of Pennsylvania’s residents are not receiving regular dental care. Moreover, a recent report from the Health Resources and Services Administration shows that the number of dental care Health Professional Shortage Areas in Pennsylvania has increased from 149 in 2020 to 161 as of June 2023, affecting the nearly 2 million residents living in these communities.

Pennsylvania already participates in several interstate licensure compacts for other health professionals. In recent years, the Commonwealth joined compacts for emergency medical services personnel (2022), nurses (2021), mental health professionals (2020), and physical therapists (2020).

“Joining the compact is a win-win for both patients and dental providers. It will single-handedly address our workforce shortages and increase access to high-quality dental care,” said Andrew Smith, executive director of the Association of Dental Support Organizations, a non-profit association representing members who provide business and operational services to dentists and dental clinics. “Pennsylvania has licensure compacts for several other health professionals. It only makes sense that we sign onto a similar compact for the dental field,” he added.