Board Tries to Calm Fight Between Dentists, Denturists

By Beacon Staff

HELENA (AP) – The Board of Dentistry is trying to soothe a decades-old battle between dentists and denturists that has again surfaced.

The board decided Friday to appoint a three-member panel with one denturist, one dentist and the chairman of the board to try to help everyone get along by making rules more clear.

Some dentists charge that denturists don’t have the training to do what they’re doing and could be found guilty of practicing dentistry without a license. One dentist said the board is too lax in enforcing the law.

The denturists say the dentists are continuing an old fight they feel aims to restrict the business denturists specifically carved out in law with a statewide ballot initiative in the 1980s.

Denturists are allowed to do specific denture procedures, and don’t require the same dental school training as dentists. They say they actually have more training in dentures than dentists and are more qualified in that area.

There are less than two dozen denturists in the state and hundreds of dentists.

Lee Wiser, who got the state’s first denturist license and championed the initiative that legally carved out the field, said he was pleased with the board’s action. He said he had expected the board to side with dentists and try to formalize restrictive regulations around a certain type of denture.

“I was shocked,” he said.

Wisner told the board that some dentists incorrectly view his field as “quacks,” and said the fighting and maneuvering should be brought to an end.

Board member David Johnson, a Great Falls dentist, said he envisions a new form and procedures that can be used when a dentist and denturist share a patient. He says they can find better ways to work together.

The turf battle reached the Montana Supreme Court in the 1990s by dentists who said they were trying to protect public health, and won an opinion stating that a patient must first see a dentist before getting a partial dental plate from a denturist.

Johnson said part of the problem is that parts of that Supreme Court ruling have never been formalized with board rules and regulations, leading to some misunderstandings.

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