Chicago (July 1, 2014) — The American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) continues to advocate for the development and implementation of new oral healthcare workforce models that will benefit the public, and improve its oral and overall health. Dental hygienists, with their formal education and the licensure requirements necessary in each state to provide care, are well prepared to assist in preventing oral health diseases. And with more than 185,000 dental hygienists licensed in the United States, the profession is ready and available to meet this growing need.
“Dental hygienists are educated, licensed and prepared to be a part of the solution,” said ADHA President Kelli Swanson Jaecks, RDH, MA. “We know that the public will benefit from a provider who can provide both preventive and specified restorative services.”
On June 30, 2014, The Pew Charitable Trusts released a report that included examples of mid-level dental providers in Minnesota and Alaska performing routine preventive and restorative care to underserved populations, and the benefits those services could have nationwide to those requiring oral health care. The state of Maine also recently passed legislation allowing a dental hygienist or an independent practice dental hygienist to become a dental hygiene therapist. Maine and Minnesota, as well as tribal lands in Alaska, have moved forward to address their access to care challenges and now recognize these oral health workforce models.
Currently, 37 states allow the public to directly access the oral health care services of a dental hygienist in at least one practice setting. In some states, such as California, a dental hygienist with an advanced license can work under remote supervision to perform a variety of services in schools and nursing homes, including X-rays, sealants, and interim therapeutic restorations. The state of Oregon has a similar allowance. Several states, including Washington, New Mexico, Kansas and Vermont, are currently deliberating dental hygiene-based mid-level workforce proposals that would allow registered dental hygienists with additional education and experience the opportunity to help meet the public’s oral health needs. New Hampshire and North Dakota are among states that are studying alternative workforce models.
“The profession of dental hygiene is on the cusp of transformation and is committed to improving access to oral health care through the integration of dental hygienists into the health-care delivery system as essential primary care providers.” added Swanson Jaecks. “The ADHA supports oral health-care workforce models that culminate in graduation from an accredited institution, professional licensure and direct access to patient care.”