Come next year, regular teeth cleanings in Oregon could be accompanied by a flu shot or any other vaccination.
Oregon is the first state to allow dentists to offer any vaccination to their patients. On May 6, 2019, Gov. Kate Brown signed into law Oregon House Bill 2220, which enables dentists to prescribe and administer vaccines. Just two other states – Minnesota and Illinois – allow dentists to administer vaccines, but only to protect against the flu and only in adult patients.
Oregonians likely won’t be able to receive vaccines from their dentists until early 2020, after the Oregon Board of Dentistry approves rules and procedures for the new law’s implementation.
“If you have a routine dental cleaning in the fall, just as the flu season typically starts, you can also get vaccinated at the same time,” said OHSU School of Dentistry Dean Phillip Marucha, Ph.D., D.M.D., who partnered with the Oregon Dental Association to draft the bill. “This simple convenience can help bridge gaps in care and prevent the spread of infectious disease. We’re offering Oregonians another option that can make it easier to stay healthy.”
“Oregon dentists are always looking for ways to improve our patients’ health and well-being,” said Oregon Dental Association President James McMahan, D.M.D. “We sponsored HB 2220 to increase access to care, providing additional opportunities for patients to receive life-saving vaccines from highly trained practitioners they already know and trust.”
OHSU is working with the Oregon Board of Dentistry, Oregon Board of Pharmacy, Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Dental Association to help determine how dentists should be trained before they provide vaccinations. As Oregon’s only dental school, the OHSU School of Dentistry will likely provide hands-on vaccination training to both practicing dentists and dental students.
The new law helps further integrate oral and medical health care, Marucha said. He added that dentists are well-equipped to provide vaccinations because they routinely provide injections in a challenging location – the mouth – and they have extensive training and experience in anatomy, microbiology and autoimmune response.
Marucha is particularly interested in how the new law will enable dentists to help fight the human papillomavirus, or HPV. While HPV is perhaps best known for causing cervical cancer in women, it is also a leading cause of oral cancer.