Some Maine dentists are rolling up their sleeves to fight a pending regulatory change that they say will make it harder for Maine residents — especially those with anxiety about visiting the dentist — to get the basic care they need. The head of the state’s Board of Dental Examiners says the proposed new rule is intended to protect patient safety.

The rule would require dentists to use a heart monitor for patients who are treated under “moderate” sedation — defined by the American Dental Association as drowsy but awake and able to respond “purposefully” to the dental staff. Moderate sedation, used to calm patients who are anxious or fearful, can be achieved with oral, injected, intravenous or inhaled medication.

The heart monitor regulation is just one of many proposed changes that will be the focus of a public hearing before the dental board next Friday. Most of the changes reflect new recommendations of the American Dental Association. The heart monitor measure, however, is not part of the ADA recommendations. If it were adopted, Maine would become the only state to have such a requirement, according to the Maine Academy of General Dentistry, which opposes the measure. The group has about 160 member dentists in Maine.

Academy member Dr. Ted Morgan of Gorham said Wednesday that requiring general dentists to use a heart monitor would drive up costs to dentists and their patients and increase patients’ fears related to the use of the heart monitoring equipment.

Morgan said the expense and complication of complying with the heart monitor measure and other related requirements would discourage general dentists from treating anxious or fearful patients and drive those patients into the offices of specialists such as oral surgeons, who already have the equipment and training specified in the proposed new rules.

“It seems that these regulations aren’t aimed at safety, they’re aimed at restriction,” Morgan said.

Dental board president and Bangor oral surgeon Dr. Jeffery Fister said Thursday that he did not know of any other states that require heart monitoring during moderate sedation, and said the board is open to reconsidering its support of the measure based on public opinions.

“The board’s sole responsibility is to protect the public,” Fister said.

The public hearing will start 9 a.m. Friday, Sept. 12, at the office of the Board of Dental Examiners at 161 Capitol St. in Augusta.

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Meg Haskell

Meg Haskell is a curious second-career journalist with two grown sons, a background in health care and a penchant for new experiences. She lives in Stockton Springs. Email her at