PROFESSIONAL TOPICS

National Governors Association: The Role of Dental Hygienists in Providing Access to Oral Health Care.

 

January 06, 2014

 

Basic oral health is an important determinant of overall health, yet access remains a challenge for many Americans. Dental hygienists can play a critical role in improving access to high-quality services, especially for underserved or vulnerable populations, according to a new paper released by the National Governors Association (NGA).

 

The Role of Dental Hygienists in Providing Access to Oral Health Care summarizes various policies governing the role of dental hygienists and examines alternative models and practices from states.

DENTAL HYGIENE FACT SHEET

 

"Dental hygienists play an important role by being in the community and serving many of the populations in schools, nursing homes, and other institutional programs, as they can be involved in providing preventive oral health care services to those who have difficulty receiving care from other sources." U.S. Surgeon General, David Satcher, MD, PhD., ADHA Access, Sept. 1998.

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REGISTERED DENTAL HYGIENIST

A licensed oral health care professional whose educational, therapeutic and preventive services limit the extent of cavities and periodontal disease and promote optimal oral health and general wellness.

 

DENTAL HYGIENE EDUCATION

The only college in the state that offers this program of study is North Dakota State College of Science, which is fully accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association. 
The Dental Hygiene program is two years in length with an eight-week summer session between the first and second year. Students are provided with classroom, laboratory, and clinical experience emphasizing skill development, self-assessment, and professionalism.

 

DENTAL HYGIENE LICENSE AND PRACTICE

Dental hygiene is a licensed profession. A dental hygienist is eligible for licensure after graduating from a nationally accredited educational program and successfully completing a written national board dental hygiene examination, a regional clinical examination, and a state written examination. 


Registered dental hygienists (RDH’s) practice according to laws of the ND Century Code and the rules and regulations established by the North Dakota Board of Dental Examiners. 
Dental hygienists are required to have continuing education to keep their license. The requirements are 16 CE hours per 2 year licensing period. CPR (2 hours) and Infection Control (2 hours) are required every 2 years. CE credits will be on an audit system.

 

REGULATION OF DENTAL HYGIENISTS

The ND Practice Act defines the boundaries of the dental hygienist. 
Current regulations do not provide for the dental hygienist to administer nitrous oxide.

 

PRACTICE SETTINGS FOR DENTAL HYGIENISTS

The majority of dental hygiene professionals are employed in private dental practice. Others practice in the armed forces, correctional institutions, hospitals, public health and educational settings.

 

MANPOWER ISSUES AND RESOURCES IN ND

According to the last count of the North Dakota Board of Dental Examiners, there are 629 dental hygienists and 378 dentists that currently hold a license in North Dakota.


According to the State Health Workforce Profiles of ND, HRSA states that in 1998 ND dentists per 100,000 population was at 42.6, which was below the national average of 48.4. The per capita ratio of RDH’s was above the national average. There are currently 386 practicing RDH's in North Dakota.

 

PREVENTIVE HEALTH FACTS

Oral disease is preventable and not self-limiting. 
Every dollar invested in preventive care saves between $8 and $50 of more costly care. 
Lack of oral health has been linked to serious systemic health problems. 
Periodontal disease can aggravate respiratory diseases, complicate diabetes, increase risk of heart disease, attacks and strokes, and the delivery of low-weight, pre-term babies.

 

 

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