Dental Hygienists Begin Training for Expanded Scope of Practice
Dental hygienists across California are receiving training to treat cavities without a dentist on site after a law went into effect this year expanding their scope of practice, the Los Angeles Times reports.
According to the Times, the law (AB 1174) took effect in January and is part of a larger effort to expand dental care in the state by sending hygienists to locations that serve adults and children who might not have access to a dentist, such as:
- Preschools; and
- Senior centers (Barboza, Los Angeles Times, 8/9).
Background on Law
The law, by Assembly member Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima), is designed to reach people in underserved areas -- particularly rural areas -- across the state.
It makes permanent two components of the Virtual Dental Home pilot program, which uses telehealth to offer dental services in elementary schools, preschools and nursing homes:
- Expanding the scope of practice for dental assistants and hygienists; and
- Providing Medi-Cal reimbursements for telehealth-enabled dental services.
Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.
Details of Training
The program allows dental assistants and hygienists to consult remotely with a dentist and share health records online. After a consultation, the workers can perform certain services without a dentist's supervision, such as:
- Applying temporary fillings; and
- Determining necessary X-rays (California Healthline, 9/30/14).
Specifically, the law authorizes certified hygienists to place temporary fillings, called interim therapeutic restorations. The fillings do not require drilling or anesthetic and are less costly than traditional fillings.
The temporary fillings were tested on 900 California patients over six years before the law was signed.
Hygienists who recently underwent the first round of training to be certified for the procedure are expected to teach the method to other students in their area (Los Angeles Times, 8/9).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.