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Barron: Denturists trying new tack to legality
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Barron: Denturists trying new tack to legality

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CHEYENNE — Supporters of denturists are hoping they can legitimize their practice through House Bill 100 this session.

Previous attempts to authorize denturists to operate independently have failed in the Wyoming courts and the Legislature.

This time the sponsors are trying a new approach. Their bill would license a qualified denturist to work but only under the oversight of a licensed dentist.

Rep. John Winter, the chief sponsor, is Republican from Cody who represents House District 28, which includes Big Horn, Hot Springs, Fremont and Park Counties.

He believes that the new requirement will make a difference in the chances for the bill’s passage.

Denturism is a profession that requires advanced education and experience, he wrote in an email.

“People who are qualified should be able to work in that field as they will add to the economy and add to the quality of service provided by dentists in this state,” Winter continued.

“My personal experience has shown this to be true — a denturist on staff can save a licensed dentist a lot of time in their daily routine.”

Denturism for years has been a recognized profession tn many countries including Australia, New Zealand, United States, United Kingdom and Canada. In the United States, however, denturism is only legalized and practiced in seven states — Maine, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Washington, Oregon, and Colorado, according to internet sources.

In some of those states, the legalization came through ballot initiatives approved by voters.

In Oregon, for example, supporters of denturism succeeded in passing an initiative in 1978 to allow denturists to provide dentures directly to the public. The supporters took the issue to voters after the state legislature rejected a law legalizing denturists three times.

The American Society of Dentistry has vigorously opposed the practice of denturism for years in what has been called a turf war. The dental society claims it is a public safety issue and denturists lack the training and education needed to make and fit dentures.

The denturists say they are qualified and can offer well-fitting dentures at less cost because they do not have the overhead that general dentists have.

The struggle has been going on in Wyoming for 16 years and more.

In 2005, the State Board of Dentistry filed a lawsuit against Basin denturist Gary Vollan for practicing dentistry without a license. The district court ruled in favor of the dentists. The Wyoming Supreme Court in April 2007 upheld that ruling.

Meanwhile, in 2006, supporters of Vollan and denturism took out petitions for a ballot initiative to allow denturists to make, place and sell dentures directly to the public.

The sponsors were unable to obtain the 29,433 signatures required to get the issue on the 2008 ballot.

So they took the question to the Legislature.

In the 2008 budget session, former state Rep. Lorraine Quarberg, then of Thermopolis, and Sen. Charles Scott of Casper sponsored a bill to make the denturists legal.

At the time, Quarberg told a Casper Star Tribune reporter that she received between 50 and 60 phone calls and letters from Vollan supporters and additional verbal requests from people to help Vollan continue his practice.

“It’s a good community service,” Quarberg said. “I’ve heard nothing but good things about him.”

But the bill failed a vote in committee.

The new bill, House Bill 100, gives the denturists one seat on the State Board of Dentistry and expands the total number to seven.

Like dental hygienists who also have one seat on the board, the denturists can only practice under the supervision of a licensed dentist.

An applicant for a denturist license must be a graduate of a denturist program certified by the National Denturist Association or other board approved educational program and must also pass an examination established by the national group as well as a clinical examination acceptable to the board.

The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Labor, Health and Social Services.

Joan Barron is a former capitol bureau reporter. Contact her at 307-632-2534 or jmbarron@bresnan.net

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