Panel: Dentists could work with Botox and more


PHOENIX — A Senate panel voted Wednesday to allow dental patients to get their lips puffed up, cheeks filled out and brow wrinkles smoothed at the same place they now get their cavities filled.

And at least part of the reason for it is to buttress the earnings of dentists.

Without dissent, members of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services agreed to expand what dentists can do to include providing Botox injections for cosmetic purposes. This involves injecting a toxin that is designed to paralyze muscles, a move that can decrease wrinkles, particularly in the forehead.

The measure now goes to the full Senate after legal review by the Rules Committee.

The same measure, SB 1074, also would allow the cosmetic use of “dermal fillers,” chemicals that can get rid of deep-set lines in the face and neck, as well as plumping up lips.

John MacDonald, lobbyist for the Arizona Dental Association, told legislators that state lawmakers that these practices already are within the scope of what dentists are allowed to do. Only thing is, he said, they are limited to “therapeutic” situations.

Brian Powley, a dentist who practices in Paradise Valley, told Capitol Media Services that could include injections of what is formally known as botulinum toxin type A into a patient with temporomandibular joint dysfunction, better known as TMJ.

He said it has the effect of inactivating the muscles to grant pain relief. Similarly, Powley said that fillers might be appropriate after major jaw surgery.

But what dentists in Arizona can’t do, at least not legally, is advertise for patients who simply want to look better rather than having it part of a dental treatment plan.

Phoenix dentist Kevin Ortale told lawmakers there’s no reason for the distinction — or the restrictions.

He pointed out that under Arizona law some of these procedures, particularly Botox injections, already can be performed even by nurses and others working at medical spas simply because they are practicing under the off-site supervision of doctors who may have no specific experience in facial issues.

The alternative, Ortale said, is to have “a uniquely talented group of medical professionals, highly experienced with thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of injections in and around the mouth.”

Still, there is a financial component.

Ortale told lawmakers his business is down by almost 20% since the COVID outbreak. And he said he is not alone.

“It hit our community,” Ortale told legislators. “I have waited patiently to embark on this journey utilizing Botox and dermal fillers, hoping to expand and build back my vitality and production within my practice. My team, my peers, my patients and my hours of dedication are ready for this to pass.”

Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, said she was particularly struck by those comments about how the pandemic has affected dentists.

“It’s a reminder of the impact and what’s happened by shuttering our businesses and by closing things down,” she said. Townsend said lawmakers need to “look for ways to help recover from the decisions that were made as we went through this pandemic.

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