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Dentists in Oregon could soon give patients vaccines

Bill expected to be signed within next few days

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Dentists in Oregon are already screening patients for high blood pressure, diabetes, and oral cancers. Soon, Oregon will be the first state in the nation to allow dentists to give vaccinations. 

The bill flew through the Oregon legislature and is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Kate Brown. 

A year ago, even before the recent nationwide measles outbreak, Dr. Phillip Marucha, the dean of Oregon Health & Science University's School of Dentistry, teamed with the Oregon Dental Association to introduce a bill to allow dentists to administer vaccines. 

"Dentistry is moving more and more to be part of the primary care system of health care," Dr. Marucha said. "And we thought vaccinations were an important service for us to offer to patients. Who gives more injections than dentists? So, we are well-prepared."

Dr. Marucha expects Gov. Brown to sign the bill into law in the next day or two. He will meet with Oregon health officials in two weeks to start establishing rules and protocols for dentists to follow. 

"Because dentists already have the basic training for the basic biology of vaccines, it's not a lot of extra training, it's mostly how to handle the vaccines, how to store them," Dr. Marucha explained. 

Dr. Jason Bajuscak of City Dental says he is eager to provide this service to his 1,600 patients at his downtown clinic. 

"Dentists have a unique already established relationship oftentimes with their patients," Dr. Bajuscak said. "We're pretty integral with primary care. This is another great service that we can provide for them."

Health care providers have known for decades that good oral health often translates to good health in general. 

Dr. Bajuscak said, "Oral health is a big part of physical, behavioral health, overall health. It was certainly due in my opinion. These will end up being life-saving steps for many people."

Only licensed dentists will be authorized to administer vaccines after a certification process. 

The Oregon Health Authority will also work with dentists to adopt rules to help them file the vaccination reports into the state immunizations registry.